Maccabi Tel Aviv tops Herzliya ahead of Real Madrid

Even’s squad confident going into Euroleague quarterfinal • Hapoel Jerusalem defeats Hapoel Haifaץ

AFTER COMING over to Maccabi Tel Aviv from Maccabi Haifa in the offseason, big man Roman Sorkin has had a big impact with the yellow-and-blue, leading all scorers with 22 points in the recent victory over Bnei Herzliya. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
AFTER COMING over to Maccabi Tel Aviv from Maccabi Haifa in the offseason, big man Roman Sorkin has had a big impact with the yellow-and-blue, leading all scorers with 22 points in the recent victory over Bnei Herzliya.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Bnei Herzliya 92-74 over the weekend in Israel Winner League action as five yellow-and-blue players finished the game in double digits to notch the win.

Avi Even’s squad outplayed Oren Aharoni’s team in every facet of the game over the course of the 40 minutes, whether it was rebounding, distributing the ball or shooting percentages, as Maccabi was able to pull away during the second half with fine play by John DiBartolomeo and Roman Sorkin to take the victory.

Sorkin led all scorers with 22 points, DiBartolomeo and Scottie Wilbekin each added 14 points while Ante Zizic and Iftach Ziv scored 13 points apiece in the win. Chris Babb paced the visitors with 19 points, Chinanu Onuaku added 14 points and Aleksandar Zecevic scored 10 points in the loss.

“I am very content and I am happy that the players played the game with clear understanding as to where we are heading in both competitions,” Maccabi’s interim coach Even said. “We played against a good team and did what we needed to. We need consistency and the players who came in played with more energy.”

Aharoni also shared his team’s perspective after the contest.

“We lost our focus and if you lose your focus here Maccabi, which is in great shape, will punish you,” Aharoni said. “We had some bad minutes on offense and that led to our poor play on defense. We are a good team and we have to learn from this and just like every club we have our strengths and those things that we have to work on.”

The game’s leading scorer, Sorkin, also commented on the triumph.

“At half-time in the locker room, Avi yelled at us a bit and said we weren’t focused enough on defense,” Sorkin said following the game, “I’m happy that we were able to turn things around before we start the Euroleague playoffs. As for Real Madrid, we played them twice this year and we have a day or so to celebrate Passover and get ready for them. The next game is always most important and we have to be prepared to play our game and listen to our staff.”

Maccabi begins its Euroleague quarterfinal best-of-five series against Real Madrid on Wednesday night in Spain.

 Hapoel Jerusalem

Elsewhere, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Haifa 80-67 as Jalen Adams was the star of the show to keep the Reds in first place overall in the standings.

Yotam Halperin’s squad got out to a great start and went on an 11-0 run to take a 24-8 lead after the first quarter, but James Ennis scored at will to try to keep Haifa close.

However, Willy Workman brought power in the paint, grabbing rebounds and scoring inside, to notch the victory for the capital city squad.

“We were there on defense from the start,” Halperin began. “It wasn’t easy in the last game against them with their aggressiveness and intensity, but we were able to stop them and we opened up a bigger gap as well. The bench was very good today no matter who came on to play and they all gave something, especially when we were missing a player like Retin Obasohan. We stayed together as a team and were terrific.”

“We had a total black-out in the first quarter and Jerusalem came ready to play,” Haifa coach Elad Hasin said. “When you play here, you can’t go down by 15 points in the first quarter. We have to improve as a team and we have to get back to the basics. Our defense has to get better.”

Hapoel Galil Elyon

Up in the Galilee, Hapoel Galil Elyon got by Hapoel Holon 75-70 as the hosts mounted a comeback to take the victory.

Joe Ragland, Steve Zack and Rafi Menco paced Holon to open the game and take a quick double-digit lead, but Gaby Chachashvili, Chavaughn Lewis and Bryce Washington – who hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer –came back to close the gap to just two points (39-37) after 20 minutes.

Ragland and Hayden Dalton kept the visitors in front for the majority of the second half, but Ike Iroegbu, DJ Kennedy and Lewis scored down the stretch in the clutch to snatch the five-point win for Galil Elyon.

Iroegbu and Lewis each scored 15 points while Kennedy added 14 points for the hosts. Ragland paced Holon with 22 points, Dalton added 11 points and Zack chipped in with eight points in the loss.

“I was pretty calm because we didn’t deserve to win,” Galil coach Barak Peleg began. “But we kept the game close and I thought whatever would be would be. At the end, the players just wanted it and they pulled out the win. We didn’t start well and things weren’t working but everything came together for us as the end.”

“We didn’t shoot well from deep and unfortunately a number of players just didn’t show up to this game,” Holon coach Guy Goodes explained. “We should have won, but maybe the players were just a bit tired. The three-point shooting was tough and they took a lot of offensive rebounds. We wanted to push the game off a day, but regardless I am proud of the players.”

Meanwhile, Hapoel Tel Aviv downed Ness Ziona 89-82 as J’Covan Brown made a triumphant return to the Reds lineup with a double-double after being out with an injury, while the victory strengthened Danny Franco’s team’s position to take one of the two remaining playoff spots.

Hapoel Tel Aviv

Hapoel Tel Aviv came out flying with the return of veteran point guard Brown, who orchestrated the offense to perfection in dishing out eight assists in the first half as JP Tokoto and Bar Timor shared the scoring to give the Reds a 51-41 lead.

Ness Ziona’s Wayne Selden and Diante Garrett helped trim the lead to just six points by the end of the third quarter, but Brown’s brilliant play bumped the score back up as his MVP performance led Franco’s team to the win.

Brown scored 20 points and added 10 assists overall, Tokoto scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Timor chipped in with 16 points for Hapoel. Garrett paced the visitors with 21 points, Selden added 19 points and Frank Bartley scored 16 points in the loss.

“I’m content with the win and maybe I should have expanded my rotation because we tired a bit near the end,” winning coach Franco said. “Our goal with the remaining games is to get into the best shape possible in three weeks’ time from now.”

“We dug ourselves a hole in the first and from there we had to chase after Hapoel especially at the Drive-In Arena which makes things very difficult, but we definitely showed character and came back into the game,” Ness Ziona coach Lior Lubin explained.

“Day after day I am feeling better,” Brown said. “I push myself to come back better and help my brothers. I’ve had some injuries, but my faith is very strong. I embrace every situation and I never lose faith. The crowd gives all that they can from the beginning to end. They are something special.”