Maccabi Ashdod inches closer to history

Berkowitz’s boys are just one win away from club’s first-ever Final Four appearance.

Mac TA coach david blatt, keith langford (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Mac TA coach david blatt, keith langford
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Ashdod is one win away from advancing to the BSL Final Four for the first time in club history after taking a 2- 0 lead in its best-of-five playoff series against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil with a 75- 69 home victory on Monday night.
The roller-coaster encounter in Ashdod went back and forth until the final minute in which the hosts held their nerve the better of the two teams to clinch a crucial win ahead of Game 3 in Gan Ner on Thursday.
“We have an important lead, but you don’t start celebrating when you are ahead in the middle of a marathon,” said Ashdod coach Ofer Berkowitz.
“Gilboa dictated the tempo, but we made an amazing comeback.
“Ashdod wants to be in the Final Four and I hope we can build on this momentum.”
Josh Carter led Ashdod with 20 points, with Josh Duncan scoring 15. Meir Tapiro added 10 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Courtney Fells had 20 points for Gilboa, while Romeo Travis contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds for Lior Lubin’s team, which ended the regular season in second position but is now in danger of being swept in the quarterfinals.
Gilboa raced into an early eight-point gap (11-3) and remained ahead until halftime, holding a 35-30 lead at the break.
Ashdod finally hit its stride in the third quarter, going on a 15-0 run, capped by three Tapiro points, to take a 47-39 advantage.
Robby Bostain’s three-pointer took Ashdod’s cushion to 11 points (52-41), but Gilboa ended the third frame with an 8-0 run, with Fells’s basket bringing the visitors within one possession (52- 49) with 10 minutes to play.
Gilboa completed the comeback early in the fourth period and Dagan Yavzuri’s triple midway through the quarter extended the gap to 63-57.
However, four straight points by Carter gave Ashdod a 71-68 margin with 43 seconds to play and Alex Tyus secured the win with a dunk moments later after Fells turned the ball over at the other end.
Maccabi Tel Aviv also needs just one more win to reach the Final Four and it seems all but certain to get it at Nokia Arena on Thursday after taking a 2-0 lead against BC Habika’a on Monday with a 101-66 thrashing.
An 18-2 first-quarter run gave Maccabi a 30-13 lead and it only got worse for the hosts, with the yellow-and-blue taking a 31-point gap (58-27) into the interval, rendering the entire second half as garbage time.
Keith Langford and David Blu led seven Maccabi players in double figures with 14 points each, with youth players Idan Zalmanson and Arad Harari also getting rare minutes. Dion Dowell had 17 points for Habika’a.
The National League playoff finals got underway on Monday, with Hapoel Tel Aviv taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series with a dramatic 84-78 victory over Maccabi Be’er Ya’akov at Hadar Yosef Arena.
Be’er Ya’akov held a surprise seven-point gap (63-56) early in the fourth period, but Gal Eitan’s three with 19 seconds to play opened a four-point lead (82-78) and secured the win.
Eitan scored 22 points for Hapoel, with Nate Miller leading Be’er Ya’akov with 24 points and 10 rebounds.