Maccabi Tel Aviv overcame an injury crisis to beat Hapoel Eilat 75-66 in Israel’s southernmost city on Monday night for its 10th consecutive BSL victory.
Devin Smith and Alex Tyus joined Shawn James on the sidelines, but Yogev Ohayon and Sylven Landesberg stepped up for the yellow-and-blue, which improved to a 15-4 record ahead of next week’s showdown with Hapoel Jerusalem (16-3) for first place in the standings.
Smith was ruled out after undergoing treatment on his gimpy knee, with Tyus receiving some rest after being sidelined during last Thursday’s Euroleague win over Bayern Munich.
Center James underwent surgery on his back on Friday and could be out until the end of the season.
New big-man Andrija Zizic surprisingly made his debut for Maccabi, only a day after arriving in Israel, but his zero points in six minutes of action were not what made the difference on Monday.
Eilat led by as many as nine points (54-45) late in the third quarter, but Maccabi scored the final seven points of the period before beginning the fourth frame with a 17-6 run, inspired by Ohayon and Landesberg, to open a nine-point cushion (69- 60) it comfortably converted to a win.
Ohayon ended the night with a season-high 23 points and nine rebounds, with Landesberg scoring 14 points, while Tyrese Rice contributed 13 points.
“I’m happy that we came through this game considering how many players were out injured,” said Ohayon. “We did it the hard way, but we achieved our goal.”
Kevin Palmer had 23 points for Eilat, which dropped to a 10-9 record and failed to avenge its State Cup final defeat to Maccabi 10 days previously.
Eilat had the edge (18-17) after 10 minutes despite Ohayon’s 11 points in the first period, but Landesberg scored nine quick points late in the second quarter to hand Maccabi the advantage at the break (35-29).
Eilat opened the second half with a 10-2 run and was in the driving seat when Christian Watford’s basket opened a 54-45 margin late in the third frame. However, an unlikely Guy Pnini three-pointer to beat the buzzer brought the yellow-and-blue within two points (54-52) ahead of the final 10 minutes, which were dominated by Maccabi on the way to another morale-boosting victory.
Maccabi Haifa (13-6) claimed its fifth straight BSL triumph on Monday, beating Ironi Ness Ziona (10-9) 92-83.
Haifa led by five points at the break (45-40), but Ness Ziona always remained within touching distance and led by four points (72-68) in the fourth period.
However, an 11-0 run gave Haifa an eight-point gap (82-74) it maintained until the final buzzer.
Donta Smith led six Haifa players in double figures with 18 points and nine rebounds. Tyler Honeycutt had 24 points and eight boards for Ness Ziona.