Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Michael Roll (center) drives to the basket against Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s Drew Crawford (right) and Nitzan Hanochi (left)..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
With head coach Neven Spahija watching from home after falling ill with the flu, Maccabi Tel Aviv assistant coach Guy Goodes guided the team to an 85-74 win over Maccabi Rishon Lezion and back to the summit of the BSL standings at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Monday night.
Maccabi improved to a 13-3 record, one game ahead of Hapoel Holon, two in front of Hapoel Jerusalem and four better than Maccabi Ashdod, which moved up to fourth place on Monday with an 84-81 win at Ironi Ness Ziona. Sek Henry scored 25 points for Ashdod, with Khalif Wyatt netting 25 for Ness Ziona, which fell to 5-11.
Tel Aviv faces the in-form Ashdod, which has won six straight BSL games, in the State Cup semifinals at Yad Eliyahu on Monday, with Jerusalem playing Holon in the other semi. The final will take place at the same venue next Thursday.
While lifting the cup is one of Tel Aviv’s top priorities in every season, the yellow-andblue won’t be thinking so far ahead, with Barcelona to visit Yad Eliyahu in a crucial Euroleague game on Thursday.
Maccabi is in eighth place in the standings, just one game ahead of Baskonia Vitoria, after falling to an 11-10 record following last week’s loss at Zalgiris Kaunas.
Barcelona will be coming to Tel Aviv on the back of the sacking of head coach Sito Alonso on Monday. Alfred Julbe, who has been coaching the Barcelona B team, was named as his interim replacement. Alonso, 42, joined Barcelona last summer on a multi-year deal. He didn’t even complete a single season at the club, with Barca amassing a disappointing 7-14 record so far in Euroleague, while going 14-7 in the Spanish league.
On Monday, Maccabi took a nine-point gap (47-38) into the break and was never in any danger of losing after holding Rishon to 10 points in the third quarter to open a 17-point margin (65-48) with 10 minutes to play.
Jake Cohen continued his excellent play for Maccabi in BSL action, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Michael Roll added 14 points.
“I’m just glad we won,” said Cohen, who is disappointed with the little credit he has received in Euroleague play so far this season.
“We had a few extra days to prepare and that is a big help for us. I thought we played great defensively and I thought that was the key to the win.”
The game against Ashdod was the start of a rare home stretch for Maccabi, which will also play five of its next six contests at Yad Eliyahu.
“We have to develop a certain swagger of playing at home,” added Cohen. “We just need that confidence that when we come out at home nobody is going to beat us. It isn’t going to come overnight. It is going to come step by step bit by bit and this was an important step tonight.”