Local Basketball: Galil secures last Final Four berth

Defeats Ironi Ashkelon 102-84 at Kfar Blum, will face first-place Maccabi Tel Aviv in the season-ending tourney.

galil elyon golan 88 (photo credit: )
galil elyon golan 88
(photo credit: )
The lineup for next Tuesday's BSL Final Four was completed Thursday night when Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan defeated Ironi Ashkelon 102-84 in the final game of the regular season. Galil secured fourth place in the standings with its victory at Kfar Blum and will face first-place Maccabi Tel Aviv in the season-ending tourney. Regular season runner-up Hapoel Jerusalem will face third-place Bnei Hasharon in the Final Four's first semifinal at Nokia Arena. Despite the final margin of victory, Galil had to battle hard to get the better of Ashkelon, which led by five points after three periods. A 33-10 final quarter by Hapoel would eventually make the difference and secure the win for the hosts. "It was a crazy game," Galil coach Oded Katash said. "The pressure was on us and it affected the team at the start of the game. We had an amazing fourth quarter and everything went our way." Omri Caspi led the hosts with 22 points and five rebounds, with Sasa Bratic and Kenny Adeleke (14 rebounds) each adding 16 points. Yogev Ohayon was once more the impetus behind Hapoel's excellent offense, which scored more than 100 points for a second straight game, scoring 14 points with 11 assists and five rebounds. Ironi Nahariya, which needed a Galil loss to have any chance of leapfrogging its northern opponent, failed to take care of its own business and lost 82-81 at Hapoel Afula/Gilboa. Also Thursday, the three other Final Four participants won, with Maccabi Tel Aviv defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 99-92, Hapoel Jerusalem edging Ironi Ramat Gan 107-105 and Bnei Hasharon beating Maccabi Givat Shmuel 92-90. After a tight start to the game at Kfar Blum, the visitors went on an 18-4 run that gave them a surprising 24-12 lead. Galil fought its way back into contention with an 8-0 quarter ending run (24-20), with Caspi scoring their last six points of the period. Hapoel continued its run in the second period and four straight points by Caspi gave the side a 30-27 lead. Just when it seemed that the hosts would run away with the win, Ashkelon's Demarco Johnson scored with ease under the basket and the visitors pulled ahead once more (41-34). Two consecutive three-point moves by Bratic brought Galil back within one point of Ironi (40-41). Avishay Gordon's three-pointer tied the score (43-43) with three minutes to play in the half. The teams continued to exchange baskets in the remaining minutes, but Galil took a three-point lead into the interval (52-49) thanks to Gordon's buzzer-beating three. The hosts extended the gap to five points (54-49) at the start of the second half. But once more Ashkelon refused to throw in the towel and grabbed a one-point lead (57-56) on Marcus Hatten's basket three minutes into the period. Despite Galil momentarily taking the lead once again midway through the quarter, Ironi was the more composed side in the period and quickly opened a double-digit lead. Or Eitan's long basket with a minute remaining in the quarter gave his team a 10-point cushion (74-64). But five straight points by the hosts cut the lead to five points (74-69) with 10 minutes to play. Galil had no intention of losing a Final Four spot in the final minutes of the season and stormed ahead in the final quarter. An Ohayon triple three minutes into the period gave Hapoel a lead it wouldn't relinquish (80-78) and Ashkelon faded quickly. Chester Simmons's lay-up capped a 25-4 Galil run and Hapoel booked its place in the Final Four.