Crucial crossroads for Israeli clubs in Europe

Maccabi Tel Aviv beats Berlins to inch closer to .500 • Hapoel Jerusalem-Prometey goes to Game 3

 MACCABI TEL AVIV got an all-around team effort to coast to an 87-78 home victory over ALBA Berlin on Tuesday night in Euroleague action. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
MACCABI TEL AVIV got an all-around team effort to coast to an 87-78 home victory over ALBA Berlin on Tuesday night in Euroleague action.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem recorded mixed results in continental play this week as the yellow-and-blue defeated ALBA Berlin in Euroleague action, while the Reds fell 82-79 to Prometey in Game 2 of their best-of-three Champions League Play In series.

The capital city squad will play the decisive Game 3 on Thursday night at the Jerusalem Arena as Yotam Halperin’s team will look to punch its ticket to the Round of 16 Group Stage.

Maccabi Tel Aviv downed ALBA Berlin 87-78 as the yellow-and-blue featured five players in double figures to rebound nicely from the derby loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv earlier in the week.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s players took care of the ball as they collectively committed only five turnovers, dished out 20 assists and recorded 10 steals in an all around team game.

The victory, Maccabi’s second Euroleague win in a row, moved the club’s record to 9-11 before it heads into a Euroleague double-week, where it will visit Zalgiris in Lithuania and Bayern Munich.

On Tuesday, Tel Aviv welcomed back one of its former players in Yovel Zoosman as the swingman returned to Yad Eliyahu as a member of the opposition after playing for Maccabi for the last half decade.

However, it was Zoosman’s old teammate, Scottie Wilbekin, who paced Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad to open up a 47-39 lead at halftime.

Berlin cut the lead down to just three points on terrific shooting displays by Maodo Lo and Luke Sikma, but a Keenan Evans dunk along with triples by John DiBartolomeo and Derrick Williams wrapped up the comfortable victory.

Wilbekin led the way with 18 points, six assists and three steals, Williams added 16 points, Jalen Reynolds and Ante Zizic each scored 14 points from the center position and Evans chipped in with nine points, eight assists and three steals in the win.

Lo scored 18 points, Sikma added 12 points and Zoosman scored 10 points for Berlin in the loss.

“We just tried to play aggressive, play tough, dive and play hard for every ball,” Sfairopoulos said following the game. “We just are trying to keep going with our rhythm and to protect our home court. We tried to slow down the game, won the game and stuck to our game plan.”

Berlin coach Israel Gonzalez also reflected on his team’s loss.

“Maccabi had more energy than us at the end” Gonzalez explained. “We were able to come back, but it wasn’t enough at the end. I have to be happy with the performance due to a corona issue within the team and we need some time to rest up and practice, but we have games every two games. We have to find a way to survive.”

Wilbekin, the game's most valuable player, commented on the keys to the victory.

“We made enough plays. We were almost in danger of giving away the game like we have a few times this season, but we were able to dig down, get some stops and get some buckets. Keenan [Evans] and John [DiBartolomeo] made big plays, and sealed the deal.”

In Ukraine, Prometey nipped Hapoel Jerusalem by three points in overtime as Chris Dowe drilled a game-winning three-pointer as time expired to send the Champions League series back to Israel for a decisive Game 3.

Jalen Adams and Suleiman Braimoh paced the Reds early on as the visitors took a 60-53 after 30. But DJ Kennedy scored clutch points down the stretch to tie up the game and head into the extra session, where Dowe took over and put Prometey in front for good to even the series at one game apiece.

The hosts were without their Israeli head coach Ronen Ginzburg, who contracted COVID-19 and won’t make the trip back to the Holy Land for Thursday’s rubber-match at the Jerusalem Arena.

D’Angelo Harrison will also be unavailable for Prometey after having been ejected when he picked up back-to-back technical fouls with six minutes left in the third quarter.

Adams led Jerusalem with 23 points, Braimoh added 21 points and Retin Obasohan scored 12 points in the loss. Kennedy led the way for Prometey with 20 points while Miro Bilan and DJ Stephens each scored 13 points in the victory.

“We knew it would be a tough game not like the one in Jerusalem,” noted Halperin. “Offensively, we were not good enough and 22 turnovers in an away game is not acceptable. They are well-coached and they have big guards who can defend well and we need to find a way to play better offense.”

Veteran forward Braimoh echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“The story of the game was 22 turnovers. I have to do a better job taking care of the ball, but we have game 3. We will look at the film, get better and try to finish it on Thursday.”

“Tough win,” began Prometey’s assistant coach Milenko Bogicevic. “We had a big loss there, so we came with good character. We controlled their rebounding and we were better this game with the fighting. We had a game plan coming in and we played like a team we do not depend on any one player.”

Game MVP Dowe was all smiles after his game winner.

“We live to fight another day, I’m happy we won, we wanted it more. We got embarrassed last game, but we did everything to win and now we are heading to Israel for a Game 3. I made some game-winners, but this was probably my best one. This is my new favorite.”