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Maccabi defeated rival Hapoel 75-54 in the Tel Aviv derby for the 14th straight time on Monday night at Nokia Aren. But the game was overshadowed by a scuffle between forwards Maceo Baston and Gili Mossinson midway through the second quarter, which resulted in both players being ejected.
The two, who have exchanged words in the past, went up for a rebound and Baston appeared to push Mossinson. The Hapoel player retaliated with a punch and Baston went after him.
Maccabi captain Derrick Sharp and Anthony Parker stopped Baston from reaching Mossinson until the players calmed down. When all was said and done the referees ejected both players.
"I heard [Mossinson] threw a punch at Maceo and Maceo doesn't back away from anybody," Sharp said.
Sharp pointed a finger at Mossinson for the incident. "It's unfortunate and it's always the same guy... He's a provocateur. That's his whole game. The league has to do something about it."
Hapoel chairman Shaul Eizenberg tried to defend his player. "If Gili did something wrong, we'll deal with it. But it doesn't make it okay for Baston to do whatever he wants." Baston was a man of few words when he finally left the locker room after the game. "You saw it, it was what it was. I'm a man and I'll defend myself," he said.
As for the game itself, Tal Burstein led Maccabi with 16 points, while Yaniv Green and Anthony Parker added 12 apiece. Green, who saw extended minutes in Baston's absence, also had seven rebounds and could have scored more, but was just 6-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Rodger Farrington scored 14 to lead Hapoel, but had just one basket in the second half. The league's top scorer, Marcus Hatten, who entered the game averaging 23.3 points per game, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with seven points. His worst two performances of the season have come against Maccabi.
Former Maccabi star Doron Sheffer scored just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench for Hapoel.
The start of the game showed little of the fire that would eventually define it. Both teams struggled early with the first points coming on a Will Solomon jumper after more than two minutes. Solomon and Baston took Maccabi to a 10-3 lead as Hapoel started the game by missing seven of its first eight shots, but a pair of Farrington hoops quickly brought Hapoel to within three.
The reds hung around and trailed only 14-12 at the end of the first period. Farrington tied the game from the line and JeRon Roberts put the visitors up two at the start of the second period, before Erez Katz's free throw 1:30 into the quarters marked the first time someone other than Farrington or Roberts scored for Hapoel.
Maccabi bounced back and tied the game at 19 on a Baston jam before pandemonium broke loose.
Without Baston on the floor, Maccabi became more focused and a 33-26 halftime lead.
Hapoel showed little fight in the second half. For a brief moment it looked like the reds would mount a comeback after Maccabi reserve Sharon Shason committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Hatten, but Hapoel failed to take advantage of the momentum. Minutes later Shason's three made it 50-36 and the yellow-and-blue never looked back.
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