Mac TA topples Hap J’lem, Rishon edges Ashkelon

Jerusalem will be the No. 4 seed and will face Holon (5) with home-court advantage in the best-of-five playoffs.

MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Keith Langford 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Keith Langford 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Hapoel Jerusalem will need to overcome bitter rival Hapoel Holon to reach the BSL Final Four after losing its final regular season game on Sunday night 89-80 to Maccabi Tel Aviv at Malha Arena.
Jerusalem required a victory over Tel Aviv as well as a Ironi Ashkelon win against Maccabi Rishon Lezion to climb to third place in the standings. However, it got neither, being steamrolled in the fourth quarter of its game by the yellow-and-blue before Rishon held on for a 62-61 home win over Ashkelon.
As a result, Jerusalem will be the No. 4 seed and will face Holon (5) with home-court advantage in the best-of-five playoffs, while Rishon (3) will come up against Ashkelon (6).
The two other series’ were set last week, with Tel Aviv (1) to play BC Habika’a (8) and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (2) to face Maccabi Ashdod (7).
Jerusalem exploded out of the gate on Sunday, opening a double-digit lead (26-15) with less than two minutes to play in the first period.
However, Maccabi would end the quarter with an 8-0 run, capped by a David Blu threepointer, and the hosts held just a three-point margin (26-23).
Lior Eliyahu’s basket midway through the second frame completed Tel Aviv’s comeback (31-29), but Yuval Naimi’s two triples to end the first half gave the Jerusalem guard 17 points in the first 20 minutes and opened a four-point cushion (49-45) at the break.
Yogev Ohayon’s three-point play gave the yellow-and-blue the initiative (50-49) early in the third period, but Ramel Bradley’s three capped a 12-0 Jerusalem surge that put the hosts in the driving seat once more (62-54). Hapoel still had the edge (67-60) going into the closing 10 minutes, but it was helpless in the final frame.
Maccabi tightened its defense and clinched the win with a 23- 3 run to start the quarter.
Shawn James dominated under the basket at both ends of the floor and Blu and Guy Pnini rained threes on the miserable hosts to take Tel Aviv’s BSL winning streak to 11 games.
Devin Smith led Maccabi with 25 points, while Pnini scored 15 against his former team.
“We knew it would be a hard game and it just took us some time to find our rhythm,” said Smith, who is looking in ominous form ahead of the Adriatic League Final Four at Nokia Arena this coming weekend. “In the end we made some defensive stops and came away with the right plays at the right time.”
Yuval Naimi had 22 points for Jerusalem, with D.J. Strawberry adding 17 points.
The series between Rishon and Ashkelon will be tighter than expected should it unfold like Sunday’s meeting between the two, with Rishon only barely eking out a win.
Adrian Uter had 13 points for Rishon, with Marco Killingsworth contributing 15 points and 10 boards for Ashkelon.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Ashdod snapped a two-game losing streak and gathered momentum ahead of the playoffs with a 96-93 win over Bnei Hasharon.