Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Yogev Ohayon.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv avoided a shock defeat to Ironi Ness Ziona in its BSL playoff opener on Monday night, with a Yogev Ohayon three-pointer with 7.1 seconds to play securing a dramatic 89-88 victory at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Maccabi struggled after losing Sylven Landesberg for the rest of the season last week, leaving coach Guy Goodes with just three senior Israeli players, Ohayon, Alex Tyus and Jake Cohen.
With two Israelis having to be on the floor at every stage of the game according to league regulations, Ohayon ended up playing over 39 minutes, with Jeremy Pargo, Devin Smith and Brian Randle also clocking between 34 and 36 minutes due to the absence of Marquez Haynes and Sofoklis Schortsanitis.
Ness Ziona had a golden opportunity to win Game 1 of the best-of-five series on the road, holding a slender lead throughout the fourth quarter until Ohayon’s clutch basket.
“I think we shouldn’t reach such a situation that I have to hit such a shot,” said Ohayon, who ended the night with 21 points and seven assists. “I’m happy that we managed to claim a win even after such a poor showing.”
Pargo, who kept Maccabi in the game for much of the night, added 28 points, including seven three-pointers, with Brian Randle finishing with 20 points.
“It was an extremely tough game, but this is playoff basketball,” said Pargo. “They came here ready to play physical and tough basketball but luckily we found a way to win thanks to Yogi.
Preston Knowles had 19 points for Ness Ziona, which hosts Game 2 on Thursday.
The lack of flexibility with the rotation was costing Maccabi mainly on the defensive end, with Ness Ziona amassing 48 points by the interval.
The visitors still trailed the yellow- and-blue by a single point, with Pargo and Randle combining for 27 points on 9-of-13 from the field in the first half, including four three-pointers by the former.
Two straight triples by Pargo gave Maccabi a five-point advantage (25-20) at the end of the first period, but Ness Ziona never allowed the hosts to build a significant cushion Ness Ziona moved in front in the second half and seemed in control until the final minute.
A Devin Smith triple with 44 seconds left brought Maccabi within a point before Ohayon clinched the win.
“We were rubbed,” said Ness Ziona coach Nadav Zilberstein.
“We made two costly mistakes on defense in the end, but we showed we have what it takes to compete against Maccabi.”