Basketball / Super League / Hapoel Holon, Ashdod in dreamland after clinching Final Four ticket
Rishon Letzion, Ashkelon will play fifth game.
Hapoel Holon defeated Hapoel Jerusalem 70-64, to win the series and book their place in the Final Four semifinal against Maccabi Tel Aviv. Ashdod beat Gilboa/Galil 82-80 to wrap up their series, and now await the winner in the decisive game between Rishon Letzion and Ashkelon on Wednesday.
It will be Holon's first Final Four appearance since 2008, when they won the title after beating Maccabi Tel Aviv. For Ashdod, this will be the first Final Four in its history, and fans will be rocking with excitement only two weeks after the women's team historic double. As far as Gilboa/Galil is concerned the defeat is especially painful, since the club finished the regular league in second place and won the Balkan League, but failed miserably when it really counted.
Since Maccabi Tel Aviv easily sweeped Habika'a 3-0, the only series going to a fifth and decisive game will be Ashkelon versus Rishon Letzion. The latter won last night's match on Ashkelon's home court 85-81, after overtime. Ashkelon's Raviv Limonad was ejected in a tense and nervous game, which ended with both team's players shoving and pushing each other.
Holon took an early lead in the encounter against Jerusalem and had a three-minute 7-0 run, but D.J. Strawberry pulled Jerusalem back to a 8-7 lead. Jerusalem's defense began to show its stuff, stopping Holon again and again, but failed to score in the other end, until Moshe Mizrachi scored two 3-pointers to end the first quarter with a 19-15 lead.
Holon was back into it in the second quarter and led 42-30 at the end of the second quarter and 52-43 at the end of the third. Jerusalem refused to give up, and 6:30 minutes before the end it cut Holon's lead to two points, 54-52. But then two 3-pointers put Holon back on track, and on the way to a 70-64 win.
Ashdod's fans can be excused for sweating throughout the game against Gilboa/Galil. The reoccurring pattern seemed to be Ashdod opening up a huge lead, and Gilboa/Galil coming right back at them, refusing to yield. Still, Ashdod's nerves were stronger in the final run, and their fans celebrated wildly after the 82-80 win.
Rishon believed they had won their game with a last-second basket, but the replay showed that the shot had gone in after the buzzer, and the teams came back for five more minutes. Rishon made their strength in the paint count, and won 85-81, whereupon both teams' players got mired in a terrible brawl. One hopes tempers will cool down by Wednesday when the two meet for their decisive game.