Mac TA survives scare to stymie Haifa

Hap J’lem stumbles at home in OT to Gilboa/Galil; Ashdod stays hot in Ashkelon.

MACCABI TEL AVIV forward Richard Hendrix 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
MACCABI TEL AVIV forward Richard Hendrix 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv needed a 10-0 run in the final two minutes to claim a 98-95 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Nokia Arena on Sunday night.
Maccabi led by a slender margin for much of the game, but was clearly still suffering from a hangover after advancing to the Euroleague Final Four on Thursday night and found itself in a seven-point hole (95- 88) with two minutes to play.
However, a three-point play by Chuck Eidson with 13.7 seconds remaining capped Tel Aviv’s late comeback and the yellow-andblue improved to 22-1 in the league this season, claiming its 16th straight BSL win.
“We had one foot in the grave, but we managed to comeback, so I guess this truly is a special season,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said. “I expected a tough game after Thursday’s high, but I didn’t think it would be this difficult.”
Tel Aviv had secured first position in the regular season long before the win over Haifa, but the battle for second place was blown wide open on Sunday after Hapoel Gilboa/Galil claimed an 84-82 overtime victory over Hapoel Jerusalem at Malha Arena.
The win brings Gilboa to within half a game of Jerusalem with three more weeks remaining in the regular season. Bnei Hasharon can move tied with Oded Katash’s team on a 15-9 record should it beat Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Monday.
Also Monday, Hapoel Holon hosts Barak Netanya.
At Malha, Jerusalem raced into an early lead and was ahead by eight points (24-16) after 10 minutes. But Gilboa quickly ate away at the deficit and a Courtney Fells triple gave the visitors their first lead (31- 30) since going in front 2-0.
Gilboa continued to race ahead in the subsequent minutes and was in front 42-36 at the break after outscoring the hosts 26-12 in the second period.
The visitors increased their lead to 14 points (54-40) at one stage, but Jerusalem ended the third quarter with a 14-2 run, with Will Solomon’s three bringing the hosts within two points (56-54).
Gilboa managed to maintain a slender lead for the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter, but Jerusalem slowly overhauled Lior Lubin’s men, and after tying the score at 71-71 with two freethrows, Jason Rich hit two more shots from the line to give the hosts a two point lead with 33 seconds to play.
Guni Izraeli sent the game into overtime with 2.5 seconds remaining, but Jerusalem still seemed to be heading towards the victory after scoring the first five points of the extra period.
However, an 8-0 run, capped by a Marco Killingsworth basket with 16.9 seconds on the clock ensured that it would be Gilboa which left Malha as the winner, reopening the race for the runners-up position.
Fells had 19 points for Gilboa, which has won five of six contests, with Gal Mekel adding 17 points and seven assists.
Yuval Naimi scored 22 points for Jerusalem.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Ashdod won its third straight game, beating Ironi Ashkelon 104-84 on the road.
Josh Duncan had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Ashdod, with Rashon Turner contributing 12 points and 10 rebounds for Ashkelon, which has lost 10 of 11 games.
At Nokia, a Jeremy Pargo basket to end the first period gave the hosts their first doubledigit margin of the night (34- 24) and there seemed to be little doubt that Tel Aviv would cruise to yet another BSL win.
However, Haifa made sure it always remained within striking distance of the hosts and trailed by just six points (56-50) at halftime.
An Avi Ben-Shimol basket tied the score (75-75) towards the end of the third quarter and Tel Aviv was ahead by just two points (77-75) with 10 minutes to play.
Two points from Sylven Landesberg midway through the final frame gave Haifa its first lead (86-84) since the first five minutes of the game and a 7-0 run, capped by Landesberg three-point play, opened a seven-point cushion.
However, a Guy Pnini three with 1:30 remaining brought Tel Aviv within two points (95-93) after which both the scorer and Jermaine Jackson were ejected for an unnecessary tussle.
Haifa lost its head without Jackson and after Pargo hit one of two free-throws with 38 seconds to go, Landesberg turned over the ball at the other end and Eidson’s three-point play completed the comeback.
Pargo led Maccabi with 22 points and 12 assists, with Pnini, Eidson and Richard Hendrix all scoring 15 points apiece.
Landesberg led six Haifa players in double-figures with 20 points.