Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Gal Mekel.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Maccabi Tel Aviv strengthened its hold on first place in the BSL standings with a 78-73 win at Hapoel Holon on Monday night, getting a crucial fivegame- over-11-days spell off on the right foot.
Maccabi led by as many as 18 points early in the fourth quarter, but allowed Holon within three points in the final minute before ultimately returning to winning ways following two consecutive losses.
The yellow-and-blue suffered a 94-86 defeat at Hapoel Eilat in local action last week before falling to its seventh Euroleague loss in eight games with an 80-75 setback at Real Madrid last Friday.
The score in Holon was tied at 31-31 following a dismal first half on the offensive end by both teams. Maccabi was the first to find its range, and did so in almost perfect fashion in the third period, hitting 11-of- 12 field-goal attempts to take a 15-point margin (63-48) into the final 10 minutes.
Holon never gave up the chase, but its comeback proved to be too little too late, meaning Maccabi improved to an 11-3 record to open a two-game cushion at the top over Holon (9-4) and Bnei Herzliya (9-4).
Gal Mekel built on his 23-point performance against Eilat with a game-high 22 points in Holon, adding six rebounds and four assists.
Sylven Landesberg scored 14 points for Maccabi, with James Bell finishing with 17 points for Holon. The BSL’s top scorer Khalif Wyatt was held to 16 points, connecting on just 3-of-17 shots.
“This is a very very important win, especially considering the momentum with which we entered this game,” said Mekel, who is hoping to also finally be handed an opportunity in the Euroleague. “It is very difficult to play here, but we showed a lot of character and maturity.”
Maccabi’s next target will be to get back on track in the Euroleague when it hosts Red Star Belgrade on Thursday. The yellow- and-blue will then welcome Hapoel Tel Aviv and former coach Rami Hadar in BSL action 48 hours later before playing Galatasaray and Unics Kazan in the Euroleague on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
Also Monday, Maccabi Kiryat Gat snapped a two month losing streak with an 85-80 overtime win at Maccabi Haifa. Curtis Kelly had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Kiryat Gat, which had lost its previous seven league games. Brandon Bowman added 20 points and 16 boards for the winners, who improved to 3-11 but remain in last place.
Gregory Vargas finished with 21 points to lead Haifa, which fell to 6-8 on the season.