Wild finale to BSL regular season as playoff up for grabs

Mac TA clear No. 1, but after that it’s a total toss-up; Haifa hosts Jerusalem for second place while Gilboa/Galil and Netanya both eye third.

Maccabi Haifa 311 (photo credit: BSL)
Maccabi Haifa 311
(photo credit: BSL)
The battle for home-court advantage in the BSL playoffs will come down to the final seconds of the regular season on Sunday night, with four teams fighting for three places in the top-four and eight different scenarios possible.
Maccabi Haifa is in second position with 35 points (14-7), far adrift of reigning champion Maccabi Tel Aviv (20-1), with Barak Netanya (13-8), Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (13-8) and Hapoel Jerusalem (13-8) all tied on 34 points.
The game of the day will be played at Romema, where Haifa hosts Jerusalem, while Netanya visits Maccabi Tel Aviv and Gilboa welcomes Hapoel Afula.
Netanya is the only team to have beaten Tel Aviv in the league this season, winning 114-103 in double-overtime in January. However, assuming Arik Alfasi’s side doesn’t record a stunning upset at the Nokia Arena on Sunday, there are four possible scenarios for the remaining three spots in the top-four.
The winner of the showdown between Haifa and Jerusalem will be guaranteed the runners-up position, while Galil also has its fate in its own hands. A home victory for Oded Katash’s team will secure it the all-important third place, which ensures it won’t face Tel Aviv until the Final Four title game.
A loss for Gilboa and a defeat for Netanya will leave the northerners in fourth position with home-court advantage, but facing the prospect of playing the yellow-and-blue in the Final Four semis.
Even with a defeat against Tel Aviv, Netanya can finish in fourth or even third position. A loss for Jerusalem and a Gilboa victory will leave Netanya in fourth, while defeats for Jerusalem and Gilboa will see Alfasi’s men climb to third.
“This is the most important game of our season,” Jerusalem guard Pooh Jeter said. “It is a battle for second place that both us and Haifa want to win. This is a must-win for us. This whole week we have been focusing on what we need to do defensively. The offense will take care of itself, but we need to come together with our defense to make this happen.”
Jerusalem erased a three-point deficit in the final 10 seconds to claim a dramatic 82-81 victory over Haifa at Malha Arena when the teams met in January and Maccabi forward Davon Jefferson is hoping for revenge on Sunday night.
“I was very disappointed with the outcome of our first meeting of the season,” said Jefferson, who is averaging 17.5 points and 8.2 rebounds this season.
“I’m looking forward to playing them again. I feel we were robbed in our first meeting.”
There are four more possible scenarios should Netanya win in Tel Aviv, the tightest of which will see all four contenders finish with 36 points. A Netanya victory combined with wins for Jerusalem and Gilboa will mean basket differential between the teams will decide their fate, with Gilboa to finish in second ahead of Jerusalem, Haifa and Netanya, assuming Jerusalem doesn’t win by more than 42 points in Romema.
Just as important, the struggle for the final playoff berth will be decided on Sunday.
Bnei Hasharon hosts Ironi Nahariya in Herzliya with the winner of theencounter to finish in eighth place and the loser to fight for its lifein the league in the relegation playoffs to be played between thebottom four teams.
Also Sunday, Hapoel Holon hosts Ironi Ramat Gan, looking to securehome-court advantage in the relegation playoffs. Maccabi Rishon Lezionwelcomes Ironi Ashkelon, which has already secured sixth place in thestandings, the only team other than Maccabi Tel Aviv which knows whereit will finish after the regular season draws to a close on Sundaynight.