Local Basketball: Maccabi TA crashes in Ashkelon

Maccabi suffers a 100-91 humbling at the hands of Ironi Ashkelon, its fourth straight defeat and fifth loss in its last six BSL games.

MAc TA 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
MAc TA 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Just when it seemed Maccabi Tel Aviv had hit rock-bottom, the champion found another way to embarrass itself on Sunday night. Maccabi suffered a 100-91 humbling at the hands of Ironi Ashkelon, its fourth straight defeat and fifth loss in its last six BSL games. With the Final Four two weeks away Maccabi is in a shambles. The side has shown what it's capable of in the Euroleague, but has been apathetic in the BSL since the end of March, losing to practically any opponent it comes up against. Despite shooting an outstanding 76 percent from two-point range, Tel Aviv's lack of hustle cost it the game. Tzvika Sherf's team was outrebounded 40-33 by Ashkelon. Steve Burtt led Ashkelon with 27 points, with Chris Massie and Cory Carr each adding 18 points. Vonteego Cummings scored 21 points for Maccabi, with Nikola Vujcic adding 20 points. Also Sunday, Ironi Nahariya took a significant step towards booking its place in the Final Four, defeating Hapoel Holon 99-78 for its fifth straight win, ending Holon's eight game winning streak. Nahariya can clinch a berth in the season ending tournament on Thursday with a victory at Hapoel Jerusalem, which beat Ironi Ramat Gan 96-84 on Sunday. Maccabi Rishon Lezion secured itself another season of BSL basketball with a 79-75 victory over last-placed Hapoel Afula/Gilboa. On Monday, Hapoel Galil Elyon can officially relegate Afula/Gilboa with a victory against Bnei Hasharon. In Ashkelon, a Cory Carr three-pointer opened an early 14-8 lead, but a 14-3 Maccabi run shifted the momentum the visitor's way. A 12-2 Ashkelon run to open the second half brought the hosts back within a single point (53-52), but Terence Morris's three with four minutes to play increased Maccabi's lead to five points (58-53). It would, however, not take long for Ashkelon to complete its comeback, with Burtt's triple tying the score at 60-60 and Yuval Naimi's lay-up giving the hosts a four point margin with 10 minutes to play (64-60). Massie extended the margin with a basket at the start of the fourth quarter, but Casspi's three point move after two minutes gave the visitors a 67-66 lead. With the score tied at 81-81 Naimi hit a three and Burtt added five points to open an unassailable lead and give the hosts a famous victory. In Nahariya, the hosts got off to a flying start, opening an 11-1 lead after John Gilchrist's basket. Holon ate away at the margin as the period progressed with Elton Brown catching fire and bringing his team back within four points (23-19) at quarters end. Chester Simmons's triple to end the first half cut the gap to 48-44 at the interval, bringing Holon within touching distance again. The host would, however, run riot in the third period, clinching the win with a 27-13 quarter. Gilchrist had it all his own way against the league leader and his three in the final minute of the period opened a 21-point margin and rendered the final quarter meaningless. Gilchrist scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the winners, with Ashante Johnson and Ido Kozikaro adding 22 and 20 points, respectively. Brown scored 27 points for Holon.