Local Hoops: Tight race for final playoff berth as season winds down

Ironi Ramat Gan, Maccabi Givat Shmuel and Ironi Ashkelon all fight for questionable honor of facing top-of-the-table Mac TA in quarterfinal series.

Ironi ramat gan 88 (photo credit: )
Ironi ramat gan 88
(photo credit: )
The battle for the eighth and final BSL playoff berth takes center stage on Sunday night, with Ironi Ramat Gan, Maccabi Givat Shmuel and Ironi Ashkelon all fighting for the questionable honor of facing top-of-the-table Maccabi Tel Aviv in the best-of-five quarterfinal series. Ramat Gan (8-12) is best placed to progress to the playoffs, having a one game lead over both Givat Shmuel (7-13) and Ashkelon (7-13) with only two regular season games remaining. Amir Uzi's team will be looking for its first win in three games when it hosts Bnei Hasharon on Sunday. Bnei Hasharon has been erratic of late, winning just twice in its last five games and, considering it has already booked its place in the playoffs and has little chance of securing home court advantage in the quarterfinal series, could find it difficult to motivate itself for Sunday's encounter. Givat Shmuel faces a tough time on Sunday, not only because it faces Hapoel Galil/Gilboa on the road, but also due to the fact it's entering the match on a six-game losing streak. Givat Shmuel seemed destined for a place in the quarterfinal playoffs just a month ago, but another loss on Sunday will likely see it face one of the other four bottom teams in a playoff against relegation rather than playing for a place in the Final Four. Ramat Gan will be cheering for a Galil/Gilboa win not just this week but the next as well, with Oded Katash's team facing Ashkelon in its final game of the regular season. Ashkelon may, however, be out of the playoff chase by next week if it fails to end Hapoel Holon's six-game winning streak on Monday and Ramat Gan beats Bnei Hasharon 24 hours prior. Ironi Nahariya can cement its playoff berth on Sunday with a home victory against Maccabi Rishon Lezion. Nahariya is coming off a convincing 15-point victory over Hapoel Jerusalem and will be very confident of winning once more at Ein Sara. Maccabi Haifa will host Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday night, looking for a confidence-boosting win ahead of the playoffs. Haifa has won three consecutive games, but has been far from impressive, much like Tel Aviv, which is a perfect 12-0 in the BSL in 2009 without doing anything special. Also Sunday, Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Ironi Kiryat Ata at Malha Arena.