Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Gal Mekel.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv gained sweet revenge over Hapoel Tel Aviv with a resounding 116-86 victory in the derby at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Sunday night, handing its arch-rival its heaviest defeat of the season.
The loss means Hapoel will be the No. 8 seed in the playoffs and will face top seed Hapoel Jerusalem in the quarterfinals which get underway next Thursday.
Maccabi, which improved to 23-9, only had pride to play for after already securing the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. However, it was nevertheless desperate for a win after suffering a humbling 16-point loss at home in the previous derby two months ago.
Maccabi hit the ground running on Sunday, scoring 7-of- 10 two-point shots and 7-of-10 three-point attempts in the first quarter alone to storm to a 40-21 lead. It kept its foot on the gas in the second period, effectively securing the win by taking a 70-37 margin into the break, two points more than it managed in all four quarters of March’s derby.
Sylven Landesberg led seven Maccabi players in double figures with 21 points. Trevor Mbakwe and Dagan Yivzori added 15 points each for the yellow- and-blue, which shot 27-of- 39 (69%) from two-point range on the night and 13-of-35 from three (37%). Tre Simmons finished with 18 points for Hapoel (14-18), which dropped to its second straight loss after suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Jerusalem last week.
Ironi Nahariya clinched the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the quarters with an 81-71 win over playoff-bound Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Gilbert Brown had 24 points for surprise-package Nahariya, which improved to 18-14.
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“I’m really happy that we are playing well ahead of the final stretch,” said Nahariya coach Eric Alfasi, whose team has won four of five games. “We have secured fourth place which is a great achievement for us. Now we just need to build on this.”
Shawn Dawson scored 21 points for Rishon, which fell to 15-17 on the season and 2-2 under new coach Arik Shivek.
Haifa officially wrapped up third place on Sunday, beating Hapoel Eilat 71-58. Haifa’s league-leading defense didn’t allow Eilat more than 16 points in any quarter. Gregory Vargas netted 17 points for Haifa (19- 13), while Alade Aminu finished with 13 points for Eilat (16-16).
On Monday, the fight against relegation could be decided, with Maccabi Kiryat Gat (10-21) to be officially demoted should it lose at Bnei Herzliya (15-16) while Ironi Ness Ziona (10-21) beats Maccabi Ashdod (12-19).
Hapoel Holon (12-19) can secure its survival, but in order to do so regardless of other results it will have to defeat leader Hapoel Jerusalem (25-6), which has won 10 consecutive games.
“It is important for us to continue and build momentum ahead of the playoffs,” said Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu.
“This is a good opportunity for us to continue and improve ahead of the final stretch to the season.”
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