There were a number of local basketball and soccer games that took place under the pale of the coronavirus this week. On the hardwood, fans were sparse at the arenas around the country despite the Health Ministry’s regulations allowing up to 5,000 at each game.
Over on the soccer field, the fourth State Cup quarterfinal contest was played between Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Haifa behind closed doors and without fans. Originally, Dr. Itamar Grotto, the Director General of the Ministry, ruled that 20,000 spectators would be allowed to attend the match at Sammy Ofer Stadium, but that was reduced the morning of the match, forcing the hosts to rule out fans altogether as there were over 15,000 tickets sold to the game in advance.
In hoops action, Maccabi Haifa walloped Hapoel Eilat 107-85 in the Carmel mountain as former Boston Celtics guard James Young continued his dream season with a team-high 25 points. The Red Sea squad grabbed an early 22-18 first-quarter lead, but Daniel Seoane’s Haifa side scored 89 points over the final three frames to take the win.
Roman Sorkin scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, Gregory Vargas added 15 points and 12 assists while captain Willy Workman chipped in with 14 points in the victory. Terrence Watson scored 21 points and Nate Mason added 18 points for Arik Alfasi’s crew in the loss.
“We didn’t begin the game well,” said Seoane. “But we played according to our game-plan and fought hard as our shots began to fall and we knew that we were going to play another good home game.”
Meanwhile, Hapoel Tel Aviv defeated Nahariya 96-88 as newcomer Sek Henry led the way with 29 points for the Reds. Ioannis Katsikaris’s squad jumped all over the northerners out of the gate, grabbing a 33-16 advantage after 10 minutes as it cruised to the home victory.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 16 points, an inspired Tomer Ginat added 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Jordan Hamilton chipped in with 13 points for Hapoel. Niv Misgav notched his career high with 16 points to pace Danny Franco’s team as captain Tony Gaffney scored 13 points in the loss.
“I want to congratulate my players and I’m very proud of them,” said Katsikaris following the contest. “They had to make it through a rough patch recently which also included very hard work. After a couple of very disappointing results the players still put in maximum effort and even more so and that’s why I am so content with their performance.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil bested Maccabi Ashdod 95-83 in the Galilee as Edgar Sosa starred in the victory with 29 points, eight assists and an efficiency rating of 30.
Lior Lubin’s squad was down by three points at halftime (49-46), but a 23-9 fourth quarter gave the hosts the hard-earned win.
Michael Young added 20 points and 10 rebounds, Jarvis Varnado added 13 points and 14 boards while Iftach Ziv added 11 points as Lubin’s team continued to climb in the standings and moved into a playoff position with a 9-12 record.
With the loss, Brad Greenberg’s port city side slid one step closer to relegation as its record fell to 4-17. Elijah Johnson led Ashdod with 16 points as Ike Ofoegbu scored 15 points in defeat.
Also, Hapoel Holon needed two overtime periods to down Maccabi Rishon Lezion 105-104 in a thriller at Holon’s Toto Arena.
Manny Harris fueled Stefanos Dedas’s squad in the second extra session and led the club with 35 points and nine rebounds for an efficiency rating of 35. TJ Cline notched 18 points while Marcus Foster chipped in with 12 points in the win.
Alex Hamilton was Rishon’s high scorer with 30 points and D’Angelo Harrison added 24 points in the loss. Holon moved to within one game of third-place Rishon as it sets it sights on leapfroging Guy Goodes’s side in the coming weeks.
“I struggled a little bit earlier,” explained Harris, who was chosen as the game’s MVP. “I just I stayed focused and kept my head in the game. The other guys played defense and we were aggressive on both ends of the floor.
“When we picked up the energy we were able to get the loose balls and take the win by playing unselfish basketball and getting the ball to the open man. If we can continue to play the right way we will get better.”
Over in Israel State Cup quarterfinal soccer action, Hapoel Beersheba beat Maccabi Haifa 2-1 and advanced to the competition’s semifinals at an empty Sammy Ofer Stadium.
The Greens opened the scoring via a 22nd-minute volley by Ofri Arad off a corner kick, but Miguel Vitor drew the desert Reds even 13 minutes later thanks to a header from a Josue free kick.
Ben Sahar then scored in the 62nd minute and the goal held up for the balance of play to send Yossi Abuksis’s team into the semifinals, where it will meet either Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda, with the duels to be decided in a draw that will take place on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t easy to play in front of empty stands,” said Sahar. “When we went down a goal we didn’t surrender and recorded a very important win for the entire club.”