Marquez Haynes splits Hapoel defenders Dijon Thompson (right) and Ezequiel Skverer.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv got its most crucial week of the season to date off to a winning start on Sunday, beating Hapoel Tel Aviv 89-72 in the derby at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Maccabi visits Alba Berlin on Thursday in a direct showdown for a place in the Euroleague quarterfinals. A defeat in Germany could already end the yellow- and-blue’s title defense in the Top 16.
However, Maccabi was determined to first take care of business in local action on Sunday, especially as it was facing cross-town rival Hapoel, which claimed a historic 20-point win when the teams last met at Yad Eliyahu in November.
There was never any danger of a repeat of that result on Sunday, with Maccabi building a double-digit gap (45-34) by the end of the first half and remaining in control until the final buzzer.
Jeremy Pargo led five Maccabi players in double figures with 17 points and eight assists, with Alex Tyus finishing with a double- double of 11 points and 12 rebounds, as well as five blocks for the hosts, who improved to 23-3 in the BSL.
Raviv Limonad had 18 points for Hapoel, which fell to 14-12.
It isn’t often that Maccabi and Hapoel fans unite in applause, but the untimely and tragic passing of Hapoel team manager Uri Shelef at the age of 43 from a cardiac arrest last week resulted in exactly that ahead of Sunday’s clash.
Uri’s brother, Gur, a former Maccabi captain, accepted a token from current yellow-andblue captain Yogev Ohayon ahead of a minute’s applause which was respected by both sets of supporters.
After such an emotional start to the night, it took both teams several minutes to regain their focus and it was Maccabi which held a slender edge (24-20) after the first quarter.
It wasn’t until the final minutes of the first half that the hosts built a significant gap, with eight straight points by Marquez Haynes followed by a Pargo basket to end the period opening a double-digit margin (45-34) for the first time.
Hapoel came no closer than five points in the second half, with a Jake Cohen three-pointer to end the third period capping a 9-2 run and establishing a 12-point gap (67-55), which the visitors never threatened to erase.
Four more games will take place on Monday, with Hapoel Jerusalem (18-7) targeting its ninth win from 10 games when it hosts Hapoel Holon (14-11).
Holon has lost four of its past six contests and will be desperate to move one game clear of Hapoel Tel Aviv in the battle for third place with a victory at the Jerusalem Arena.
Also Monday, Hapoel Eilat hosts Bnei Herzliya, Ironi Ness Ziona visits Ironi Nahariya and Maccabi Ashdod welcomes Maccabi Rishon Lezion. Maccabi Haifa faces Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil on Wednesday.