State Cup Hoops: Familiar foe comes back to haunt Haifa in cup defeat to Ashkelon

State Cup Hoops Familia

Maccabi Haifa suffered a surprise exit from the State Cup on Thursday, while Hapoel Gilboa/Galil dramatically escaped a shock defeat to advance to the quarterfinals. Haifa entered Thursday's last 16 encounter against Ironi Ashkelon on the back of six straight league victories, but after being outscored 24-8 in the second period, fell to a bitterly disappointing 95-87 defeat. Only a Brain Tolbert buzzer-beating three-pointer denied Haifa the cup in last season's final against Hapoel Holon, and the veteran American guard came back to haunt the Greens once more on Thursday. Tolbert scored 28 points for Ashkelon, and time and again thwarted Haifa's attempts to mount a comeback in the second half. Omar Sneed added 19 points and nine rebounds, with Moran Rot and Corry Carr each scoring 13 points. Jason Rich had 28 points for Haifa, with Davon Jefferson adding 16 points and 10 rebounds. Ironi Ramat Gan, which has lost all nine of its league games so far, led Gilboa throughout the first half at the Zisman Arena, but the visitors fought back to tie the game in the second half and Jeremy Pargo's basket with 10 seconds to play gave Oded Katash's team a 64-63 win. Pargo scored 12 points, with Brian Randle leading Gilboa with 18 points. Brandon Ewing had 28 points for Ramat Gan, which has gotten used to heartbreaking defeats this season. Also Thursday, Hapoel Afula reached the last eight with a 93-85 triumph at National League club Elitzur Kochav Yair/Kfar Saba. Kochav Yair/Kfar Saba took a surprise 43-30 lead into the break, but a late 16-2 Afula run made sure the favorites advanced. B.J. McKie scored 24 points for Afula to lead the club in victory. The last 16 encounters will be completed over the weekend. Maccabi Ashdod hosts Bnei Hasharon on Saturday, while on Sunday Hapoel Jerusalem welcomes Barak Netanya to the Malha Arena and Ironi Nahariya hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion. BSL champion Maccabi Tel Aviv and cup holder Hapoel Holon will join the competition in the quarterfinals. In Ashkelon, Haifa ended the first period with a 5-0 run, with Ido Kozikaro's lay-up giving the visitors a 25-20 lead after 10 minutes. Richard Roby extended Haifa's margin to 28-20 with a three-point move to start the second quarter and Avi Ashkenazi's men seemed to be cruising. However, Haifa would score just five more points in the remainder of the second period and Ashkelon seized control of the encounter. Sneed's three points put the hosts in the lead (32-31) and Ashkelon opened a 4433 halftime gap, with Tolbert capping the half with a three-point play. Five straight points by Carr to begin the second half extended Ashkelon's margin to 49-34 and the hosts still led by 12 points (69-57) with 10 minutes remaining. Amit Ben-David cut the deficit to nine points at the start of the fourth quarter (71-62), but Haifa could not come any closer and Ashkelon held on for the shock victory. At Ramat Gan, the hosts opened an early lead and were ahead 18-16 at the end of the first period. Ewing's free throws increased the gap to doubledigits (29-19), and with just under four minutes to play in the first half Ramat Gan led 34-19. Gilboa still trailed by 10 points (39-29) at the half and was down 52-44 with 10 minutes remaining. The visitors began the fourth quarter with five straight points to close to within one possession (5249) and the tight would remain close until the final buzzer. The game was tied at 6262 with one minute to play and Julian Khazzouh gave Ramat Gan a one-point advantage from the free throw line with 55 seconds to go. However, Gilboa would have the last laugh. Pargo gave the team from the north the lead with 10 seconds left and after Taj McCullough missed at the other end, Gilboa celebrated a dramatic escape.