Maccabi Tel Aviv extended its perfect start to the season on Sunday night with an 80-61 win over Bnei Herzliya in BSL action, with new guard Norris Cole finally making his mark with 17 points in 20 minutes.
The 29-year-old, who won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat in his first two seasons in the league and has played a total of 360 NBA games over the previous six seasons, was limited for much of the preseason due to injuries and only had six points in the team’s BSL and Euroleague openers.
Herzliya got off to the better start on Sunday and the game was tight (48-47 Maccabi) going into the final 10 minutes.
But the yellow-and-blue, led by Cole, would outscore the visitors 32-14 in the fourth frame to secure what ended up being a comfortable triumph.
“I’ve been waiting to play well,” said Cole. “I wasn’t healthy and I’m finally starting to feel better and I wanted to have a great home opener.”
Shawn Dawson had 15 points for Herzliya, which fell to 1-1.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Holon is still searching for its first win over all competitions in 2017/18 after dropping to an 89-82 defeat to Hapoel Eilat and Mike Rosario in BSL action on Sunday.
The surprise defeat to Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in the quarterfinals of the preseason Winner Cup, which was held at its home arena two weeks ago, had raised some concerns, but Holon was never expecting to open its local league campaign at 0-2, as well as lose its FIBA Champions League opener.
After falling to Hapoel Tel Aviv last week, Holon was beaten at home by Eilat after a tight encounter on Sunday. There was little to separate the teams throughout the night, but Eilat would leave with the win after Rosario went a remarkable 6-of-6 from three-point range in the fourth quarter.
Rosario finished with 23 points, with Eilat moving to 1-1 after losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv last week.
Joe Alexander and Tu Holloway had 21 points each for Holon, which was outrebounded 40-21, allowing Eilat to grab 17 offensive boards.
Holon’s next chance to get off the mark will come on Tuesday when it hosts AS Moncao in its second Champions League game after losing to Murcia in Spain by two points last week.
“This is an unpleasant situation.
You don’t have to be a genius to see that we have a problem in rebounding and we also didn’t play well on defense,” said Holon coach Dan Shamir. “We also don’t quite know how to play together on offense. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Yellow-and-blue, Hapoel Eilat earn BSL victories Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Norris Cole had a game-high 19 points in last night’s 80-61 win over Bnei Herzliya at Yad Eliyahu Arena. (Adi Avishai) Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways in Premier League action to remain within striking distance of the summit on Sunday night, battling to a 2-0 victory over Bnei Yehuda in Netanya.
After squandering a two-goal lead against Hapoel Ashkelon to draw 2-2 in its final match before the international break following two successive goalless deadlocks against Villarreal in the Europa League and Maccabi Haifa, the yellow-and-blue was desperate to kickstart its campaign on Sunday.
Maccabi struggled to create chances for much of the match, but Icelandic striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson only required a small opening to head in the opener in the 51st minute. With Bnei Yehuda sending everyone forward in search of an equalizer, Maccabi clinched the win deep into stoppage time courtesy of Nick Blackman’s goal.
“We didn’t play our best game,” said Maccabi coach Jordi Cruyff. “But after the last two games in which we played better but didn’t get the points the most important thing was to take the three points.”
Maccabi visits Hapoel Beersheba in a showdown between the two title favorites next Monday, but Cruyff wouldn’t comment on that match, insisting he is completely focused on Thursday’s Europa game at Astana in Kazakhstan.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Netanya will try and climb up to second place when they meet at Teddy Stadium. A win for either side will move it within three points of the summit, with Netanya entering the encounter brimming with confidence while Beitar wants to bounce back from its first defeat of the campaign.
Despite making few changes to the squad that won promotion from the National League last season, Netanya has been one of the league’s pleasant surprises this season. Slobodan Drapic’s team has lost just one of its seven matches, to Maccabi Tel Aviv, but has since won two games in a row by a combined goal difference of 7-0.
“We want to build on this form and hopefully it can lead us to achievements we never dreamed possible,” said Drapic.
Beitar’s unbeaten start to the campaign came to an end with a 3-2 defeat at Bnei Sakhnin before the international break, but veteran Yossi Benayoun is optimistic the team can get back on track on Monday.
“We respect Netanya, but we are playing at home and we always want to win at Teddy,” said Benayoun. “It is only natural that they will come with confidence because they are doing better than expected.
But we want to focus on our own play and what we need to improve on.”
Earlier Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana sacked coach Guy Levy after just three matches at the helm. Ra’anana lost all three of its league games under Levy, who had replaced Dudu Avraham. Avraham was fired by owner Asher Alon after the team had picked up a single point from its first four games.
Ra’anana played arguably its best game of the season on Saturday, leading Hapoel Beersheba 1-0 until the 77th minute before the reigning champion scored three times in 10 minutes to take the three points.
“I’m not angry and I have no complaints towards anyone,” Levy wrote on Facebook.
“No one forced me to take this job and I did it knowing its limitations and the team’s situation. This is the first time in my career that I was fired for being a professional, methodical and organized coach.”
Mac TA alone in 2nd place with conquest Yellow-and-blue beats Bnei Yehuda 2-0 • K8, Sakhnin play to scoreless draw • Beitar primed for Netanya Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson (right) scored his team’s opener in last night’s 2-0 win over Ben Turgeman (left) and Bnei Yehuda in Premier League action. (Danny Maron) • By ALLON SIN AI standings PREMIER LEAGUE GP W D L PD Pts Hapoel Haifa 7 5 2 0 16-6 17 Maccabi Tel Aviv 7 4 2 1 11-8 14 Maccabi Netanya 6 3 2 1 15-6 11 Beitar Jerusalem 6 3 2 1 15-9 11 Hapoel Beersheba 6 3 2 1 8-6 11 Maccabi Haifa 7 3 2 2 10-9 11 Bnei Sakhnin 7 3 2 2 7-7 11 Kiryat Shmona 7 2 3 2 7-5 9 Hapoel Ashkelon 7 2 3 2 10-9 9 Bnei Yehuda 7 2 2 3 6-7 8 Maccabi Petah Tikva 7 2 1 4 7-14 7 *Hapoel Acre 6 1 2 3 7-11 3 Ashdod SC 7 0 2 5 3-13 2 Hapoel Ra’anana 7 0 1 6 4-16 1 *Hapoel Acre deducted 2 points for financial misconduct Sunday’s results: Premier League Week 7: Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0, Bnei Sakhnin 0; Maccabi Tel Aviv 2, Bnei Yehuda 0.
Monday on TV: Beitar Jerusalem vs Maccabi Netanya (live on Sport5 at 9 p.m.).
Sunday’s results: Hapoel Eilat 89, Hapoel Holon 82; Maccabi Tel Aviv 80, Bnei Herzliya 61.
Monday on TV: Ness Ziona vs Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (live on Sport5+ at 7:30 p.m.)