Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jeremy Pargo.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv cruised to a 1-0 lead over Ironi Ness Ziona in their BSL best-of-five playoff series on Tuesday night, while Maccabi Ashdod toughed out an overtime win to take a lead over Hapoel Tel Aviv.
No. 1 seed Maccabi dominated Ness Ziona on the way to a 94-62 victory at Yad Eliyahu Arena, with Ashdod beating Hapoel 91-85 in overtime.
Both teams had their chances to win in regulation. Ashdod seemed to be in the driving seat when it held a one-point lead (78-77) with 15.9 seconds to play and had possession. However, it turned the ball over from an inbounds pass and coach Brad Greenberg was then handed a technical foul for his on-court outburst. Hapoel’s Tywain McKee hit his shot from the line to tie the score, but his teammate Jerel McNeal lost the ball with 4.4 seconds remaining.
Ashdod’s Sek Henry attempted a three-pointer at the buzzer, but he missed it to fall to 0-of-9 from beyond the arc and the game went to overtime.
Henry still couldn’t make a shot in the extra five minutes, but Ashdod found a way to win and continue its surprise season with a victory to start the playoffs.
Cameron Long had 23 points for Ashdod, with Gerald Lee adding 21 points and 10 rebounds. Henry ended the night with nine points, hitting 1-of-14 field goal attempts. McKee and Adrian Banks netted 21 points each for Hapoel, which hosts Game 2 on Thursday.
In Tel Aviv, Maccabi seized control from the start, but Ness Ziona limited the damage to enter the break down by just nine points (47-38). However, a 12-0 third quarter run saw the hosts establish a 22-point gap (65-43) Ness Ziona was never going to erase.
Jake Cohen led four Maccabi players in double figures with 18 points, with Jeremy Pargo, DeAndre Kane and Itay Segev each adding 15 points.
Talib Zanna had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Ness Ziona, which hosts Game 2 on Thursday.
“Our defense was the key tonight,” said Maccabi coach Neven Spahija. “We played with confidence, but every game in the playoffs is a new story.”
Ness Ziona coach Nadav Zilberstein still believes his team is capable of tying the series. “At the start of the third quarter we understood this wasn’t our day,” he said, with Ness Ziona only booking its place in the playoffs in the final day of the regular season on Sunday.
“This can happen and now we need to recover and correct our mistakes.”
The two remaining quarterfinal series’ get under way on Wednesday.
Reigning champion Hapoel Jerusalem, which ended the regular season in third place, hosts surprise package Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, while No. 2 Hapoel Holon welcomes Hapoel Eilat.