Hapoel Holon claims National League title, promoted to BSL.
By ALLON SINAI
Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan took a huge step towards booking a place in the BSL Final Four Monday night by defeating Ironi Nahariya 100-99 in a thrilling game. As a result, Galil leapfrogged Nahariya in the standings and can cement its place in the playoffs with a home win against Ironi Ashkelon in the final game of the regular season on Thursday.
Galil guard Yogev Ohayon played the game of his life, scoring 24 points and passing seven assists, and was the main reason behind his team's surprise win.
Hapoel's victory was especially remarkable as the team had lost its last four away games by an average of 19 points.
Also Monday, Hapoel Holon was promoted to the BSL and Ironi Ashkelon secured itself another season in the top flight, relegating Maccabi Givat Shmuel in the process.
Holon defeated Hapoel Beersheba 87-81 in the fifth and deciding game of a hotly-contested National League Playoffs Finals.
Ashkelon beat Maccabi Rishon Lezion 86-76 behind Ricardo Marsh's 26 points and 11 rebounds, which means Givat Shumel will finish the season in last place.
Galil was more composed than Nahariya in the opening quarter of their game and five straight points by playmaker Ohayon gave Galil a 16-5 lead after three minutes.
A minute later, Nahariya center Juan Mendez lost his cool and was fortunate not to be ejected after head-butting Galil's Gili Mossinson. Ariel Bet-Halahmi had to bench the irritable Mendez and Hapoel took advantage and extended the margin.
A 12-2 run, which was capped by a Chester Simmons basket, gave Galil a 31-14 lead, its biggest of the game.
After trailing 31-16 at the end of the first period, Nahariya mounted a second-quarter comeback and erased Hapoel's lead. A 20-4 Nahariya run turned the game on its head and put the hosts in front, 36-35. Veteran Barak Peleg deserves much of the credit for Ironi's turnaround, scoring 12 points in the period and injecting enthusiasm into his team's defensive play.
The lead exchanged hands numerous times in the final minutes of the half with Galil eventually taking a 45-44 lead into the break.
Nahariya seized control with an early third-period run, which gave the team a 53-48 cushion. Sasa Ocokoljic, who scored 20 points in the game, played an integral part in the run by scoring 10 points in the first five minutes of the half.
Despite the disappointment of dropping its huge advantage, Galil didn't allow Nahariya to pull too far ahead and remained close until the end of the third period.
An 8-1 Hapoel run, capped by Sasa Bratic's basket at the end of the quarter, brought Galil to within two points of Ironi (67-65) ahead of the clubs' most important 10 minutes of season so far.
The teams exchanged three-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter, but a three-point play by Galil center Kenny Adeleke tied the score at 76 after two-and-a-half minutes.
Despite Peleg fouling out, Ironi edged ahead 86-82 in the subsequent minutes thanks to Raviv Limonad's three-point play and an Ocokoljic basket from downtown.
Three-pointers by Avi Ben-Chimol and Bratic made sure Galil remained close to the hosts (95-92) and set up an enthralling final two minutes.
Two successful free throws by Ohayon, with just over a minute to play, tied the score once more at 95 and a Bratic floater gave Galil a two-point lead with 45 seconds to play.
After both sides scored two free throws, Ido Kozikaro evened the score at 99 with two more successful foul shots with just 10 seconds to play.
Nahariya sent Ohayon to the foul line immediately afterwards and the guard scored one of two to give his team the lead once again. That single free throw would prove to be the difference as Nahariya turned over the ball in its final possession and time ran out.
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