Local Hoops: Ashkelon secures final spot in losing effort

Playoff matchups set with Ironi facing Mac TA and Jerusalem taking on Nahariya.

basketball (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The playoff picture in the BSL was completed on Sunday night after Ironi Ashkelon clinched the eighth and final berth despite suffering a home defeat. Ashkelon lost 79-78 to Hapoel Galil/Gilboa, but will face Maccabi Tel Aviv in the best-of-five quarterfinals series following Ironi Ramat Gan's 68-57 defeat at Maccabi Rishon Lezion. Despite the many different options ahead on Sunday's games, there was no change in the standings following the final night of the regular season. Hapoel Jerusalem (2), which won 87-77 at Maccabi Givat Shmuel, will play Ironi Nahariya (7), which defeated Ironi Kiryat Ata 75-71 on Sunday. Maccabi Haifa (3) suffered a humbling 97-78 thrashing at Bnei Hasharon (6) on Sunday and the teams will get to play each other at least three more times in the playoffs. Hapoel Holon (4) hung on to fourth place and home-court advantage despite falling 105-82 to Maccabi Tel Aviv at Nokia Arena, and will come up against Galil (5). In the relegation playoffs, Ramat Gan (9) will meet Kiryat Ata (12) while Maccabi Givat Shmuel (10) plays Maccabi Rishon Lezion, with the two losers to be relegated to the National League. The postseason starts this Saturday when Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Ashkelon, with the remaining series' to begin the following day. In Ashkelon, Hapoel Galil/ Gilboa controlled the game from the start and led 24-15 after 10 minutes and 45-36 at the break. The visitors remained in front in the third and led 70-57 with seven minutes to play. However, Ashkelon came right back and the score was tied in the final minute of the encounter. But the hosts couldn't complete their comeback and lost the game, a defeat which proved to be not that costly after Ramat Gan fell as well. At Rishon, the hosts ended the first quarter with a 18-14 lead and, despite having nothing to play for, controlled the encounter and led 42-30 at halftime. Maccabi took a 54-40 advantage into the final 10 minutes and seemed to be in complete control, but Ramat Gan continued to fight and closed to within five points (60-55) with three minutes to play. However, the visitors would come no closer and Ramat Gan will have to play for its BSL life. Larry O'bannon scored 15 points for Rishon, with Mike Helms scoring 15 for Ramat Gan. At the Nokia Arena, Maccabi scored six of the final eight points of the first quarter to open a 26-20 lead. Tel Aviv also scored the first five points of the second period, with a Carlos Arroyo three giving the hosts a 31-20 cushion. Maccabi was ahead 47-42 at the half and opened a 75-59 margin by the end of the third quarter to ensure it ended the regular season with a perfect 11-0 home record.