Maccabi Tel Aviv overcomes Hapoel Jerusalem

Galil Elyon dominates Mac Haifa in Balkan final • Herzliya handles Holon • Rishon upsets Hap TA

 MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Keenan Evans (right) goes to the hoop against Hapoel Jerusalem’s Jalen Adams during the yellow-and-blue’s 89-79 home victory over the Reds.  (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Keenan Evans (right) goes to the hoop against Hapoel Jerusalem’s Jalen Adams during the yellow-and-blue’s 89-79 home victory over the Reds.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Maccabi Tel Aviv downed Hapoel Jerusalem 89-79 late Sunday night at Yad Eliyahu to take the Israeli Classico as six yellow-and-blue players scored in double-digits to notch the win.

The victory ensures that if Avi Even’s squad wins the final two games of the regular season, it will secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Tel Aviv got off to a quick start with points by Ante Zizic and Keenan Evans, but a stellar first half by Jalen Adams – with 21 points – sent the Reds into the break holding a 48-44 lead.

However, a 13-0 Maccabi run to begin the second half led by James Nunnally and Derrick Williams gave the hosts the lead for good as Tel Aviv captain John DiBartolomeo put the game away with a trio of fourth-quarter triples to take the 10-point victory.

Evans led the way with 15 points, five rebounds and 8 assists, Nunnally added 15 points while Williams, DiBartolomeo and Roman Sorkin each had 11 points in the win. Adams paced Jerusalem with 26 points and Suleiman Braimoh had 18 points in the loss.

“I’m happy that we took a nice win which was a super important one for us,” said Maccabi coach Even said following the game. “We had to make the switch from Euroleague to the Israeli league and that’s what we did. Our second half was superb and we’re on our way.”

“We played well in the first half of a game that was going at a quick pace,” said Yotam Halperin, Jerusalem’s coach. “But we couldn’t handle Maccabi’s aggressiveness and perhaps we were a bit tired. We had a shorter rotation than Maccabi and we will learn from this game.”

DiBartolomeo also reflected on the yellow-and-blue’s victory.

“We played OK overall and they had a strong first half where we didn’t do much. In the second half we were stronger and had a very good third quarter. But we needed to close this game out much earlier. They had a chance to come back and you can’t give them those types of opportunities.”

KC Rivers, Jerusalem’s veteran swingman, also shared his insight about the game.

“It was tale of two halves. In the first half we were aggressive and we came out executing our game plan. But we came out flat in the third quarter and once they took the game over it was hard to come back.“

In the Balkan League final, meanwhile, Hapoel Galil Elyon dominated Maccabi Haifa 83-65 to capture the European crown in Nahariya.

The Galilee squad led from the get-go as the Greens never threatened Barak Peleg’s team, which was dominant in the win.

DJ Kennedy led the way for Galil Elyon with 21 points, Nimrod Levi added 16 points and Gaby Chachashvili chipped in with 12 points in the victory. Steve Taylor paced Haifa with 13 points while Kwake Vaughn added 11 points in the loss.

Elsewhere, Bnei Herzliya eased by Hapoel Holon 90-75 thanks to a big second half to record the victory and leapfrog the purples into third place as they ready for the Champions League Final Four at the end of the week.

Herzliya’s Chris Babb and Holon’s Adam Smith paced their respective teams to head into halftime with visiting Herzliya holding a slim one-point lead (41-40).

However, the second half was all Oren Aharoni’s Herzliya squad as DJ Cooper, Chinanu Onuaku and Babb led the attack to notch the 15-point win.

Babb scored 24 points, Cooper added 19 points and 11 assists while Onuaku also recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Smith was Holon’s high scorer with 24 points and Chris Jonson chipped in with 15 points in the defeat.

“What a win for us,” exclaimed Babb following the win as he also spoke about the importance of Cooper to the team.

“We stuck to our game plan, stayed together as a team and fought until the end. DJ has been fantastic for us. A veteran, pass-first point guard who always makes the right play. He’s been an anchor for us since Quinton [Hooker] went down.”

Also, in a game played at the Hadera Arena, Maccabi Rishon Lezion stunned Hapoel Tel Aviv 78-75 as the Reds missed out on a chance to solidify their playoff position against the already relegated squad.

Hapoel jumped out to a great start as JP Tokoto led the way, but the hosts came storming back as Caleb Wesson provided the inside presence and Tu Holloway found points from beyond the arc in the clutch to snatch the win.

Wesson paced Rishon with 17 points and nine rebounds, Holloway added 15 points and Tal Peled chipped in with 12 points.

Tokoto scored 23 points for Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bar Timor scored 13 points and Egor Koulechov added 11 points in a losing cause.