Riveting back-and-forth battle for second

As leader Mac TA rests, Hap Eilat jumps back into tie with Mac Haifa; Ashdod still alive.

Afik Nissim 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Afik Nissim 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Eilat moved back on level terms with Maccabi Haifa in the battle for the No. 2 seed in the BSL playoffs on Thursday, thrashing Maccabi Rishon Lezion 95-76 while Haifa lost 99-94 at Barak Netanya.
Eilat improved to 15-8 after opening a double-digit lead in the first quarter and remaining in complete control until the final buzzer to claim its fifth win from its past six games.
Afik Nissim led Eilat with 20 points, with Eli Holman adding 19 points and eight boards, Jerome Tillman scoring 18 and Scotty Hopson contributing 16 points.
Adrian Uter had 17 points for Rishon, which fell to 11-12.
After winning six straight games, Haifa (15-8) suffered a defeat for the first time in two months on Thursday, with Netanya leading by eight points at the break (54-46) and all but clinching the victory by the end of the third period, taking a 14-point cushion (77- 63) into the final 10 minutes.
Despite the ejection of coach Brad Greenberg, Haifa fought back in the closing minutes, but its comeback came up short and the Greens ceded important ground to Eilat.
“I’m not worried with how the game ended. We have a short roster and we paid the price in the final minutes,” said Netanya coach Danny Franco. “Our Israeli players deserve all the credit for this win.”
Ramel Bradley scored 20 points for Netanya (12-11), with Yehu Orland adding 18 points. Gal Mekel netted a career-high 32 points for Haifa.
Maccabi Ashdod remained alive in the battle for a playoff berth on Thursday, edging Hapoel Holon 83-79 on the road.
Holon led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter (23- 10), but there was nothing to separate the teams at the break (39-39).
The hosts still took a five-point margin (61-56) into the final frame, but Ashdod was more composed in the clutch to clinch an important victory.
Diamon Simpson had 16 points and eight rebounds for Ashdod (10-13), with Mardy Collins and Jamie Skeen contributing 15 points each.
Frank Hassell had 24 points and 17 boards for Holon, which is still in the hunt despite falling to 9-14.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which beat Bnei Herzliya 79-60 on Wednesday, currently sits in the eighth and last playoff spot, tied with Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in seventh place on 11-12.
With the league being split into two sections last week, the teams in the bottom half of the standings can’t finish any higher than seventh and vice-versa.
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s game against Hapoel Jerusalem was postponed from Thursday to May 2 due to the yellow-andblue’s participation in the Euroleague quarterfinals.