Maccabi Tel Aviv overwhelmed shorthanded Hapoel Beersheba 81-68 this week to leapfrog Hapoel Tel Aviv and move into first place in the Israel Winner League.The yellow-and-blue returned to domestic competition after having split two road Euroleague games in Spain, where it fell to Barcelona 83-78 but slipped by Valencia 94-93.In what was veteran forward Guy Pnini’s 511th Israeli league game, which tied him with the all-time record holder Meir Tapiro, Oded Katash’s squad began the game well as captain John DiBartolomeo went firm deep and the contest’s MVP Roman Sorkin dunked inside to give Maccabi a 39-36 advantage at halftime.Without star guard David Efiyani and Israeli Joaquin Szuchman, Lior Lubin’s team relied on Khalil Ahmad to carry the offense for the southern capital team, but Darrun Hilliard, Jarell Martin, Rafi Menco and Sorkin switched gears during the final frame to seal the double-digit win.
Sorkin recorded a 10 point-11 rebound double-double, while Hilliard and Menco each scored 13 points in the victory. Ahmad paced Beersheba with 17 points, Tidjan Keira added 14 points and Ben Moore chipped in with 13 points in the loss.“The most I’m going to take out of this game is the win,” Katash began. “You can see that Beersheba has a direction as to how they are playing and we didn’t play responsible basketball in the first half. We have to be much more focused and we got ourselves into trouble as we could have made this game a lot easier.” Sorkin spoke about Pnini matching the all-time league appearance mark.“I don’t know if I’ll get to 511 games, but regardless, I want to convince him to play another season. He is a legend of the game who never ends and it’s such a huge joy to play with him.”At the Drive-In Arena, Hapoel Holon just got by Hapoel Tel Aviv 93-87 as the defending champion picked up an important win after a number of disappointing results.After a close first quarter, game MVP Shawn Dawson scored at will and CJ Harris added crucial points to help the Purples go on a 16-2 run ahead of halftime to take a 42-35 lead.Xavier Munford and Bar Timor along with Jordan McRae tried to cut into the advantage, but the Dawson-Harris duo kept finding the bottom of the basket while Joe Ragland also contributed down the stretch to keep Holon in front as it notched the victory.
“We just weren’t there energy wise from the outset. We didn’t deal with the pick and roll well and we were punished for that. We were tired, but that’s not an acceptable excuse, but we were lacking that energy in this game.”Captain Bar Timor
Showing character on the court
Dawson led the way with 24 points, Harris added 23 points while Ragland scored 16 points and dished out eight assists in the win. McRae paced the Reds with 18 points, as Munford and Timor scored 17 points apiece in the loss.“We showed a lot of character,” Goodes explained. “We came into this game after a very tough loss, but I saw the desire that the players at the training sessions since then. Every time we had a down stretch we were able to bounce back and that shows the character of the guys and the strength of the team.”“We scored a lot but also gave up easy baskets at the other side of the court,” Tel Aviv coach Danny Franco said. “We came ready for Ragland and we held him for the most part, but Dawson has been haunting me since 2016. If we would have played with the energy we had in the last few minutes for most of the game perhaps the result would have been different.“ Dawson, the game’s MVP, spoke about the win.“This game was great. Every season I feel that I have a lot to contribute and while the connection may not come immediately, we work on it every single day in order for the team to run well together. The role I have at Holon may be different as I don’t have the ball in my hands that much, but I let the game come to me.”Hapoel Tel Aviv captain Timor also reflected on the game.“We just weren’t there energy wise from the outset. We didn’t deal with the pick and roll well and we were punished for that. We were tired, but that’s not an acceptable excuse, but we were lacking that energy in this game.”Up in the Galilee, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil finally broke its 11-game winless streak by convincingly downing Hapoel Haifa 85-67.Ariel Beit Halachmi’s charges were on fire at Gan Ner as five players scored in double digits while Tony Carr and Justin Gorham each recorded double-doubles in the win.Carr led the way with 18 points and 10 assists, London Perrantes added 16 points, Payton Willis scored 13 points and Gorham put in 11 points and 13 boards in the win. Will Rayman scored 14 points and Kadeem Allen added 12 points in the loss.Up in the Galilee, Hapoel Galil Elyon downed Kiryat Ata 92-86 thanks to a huge fourth quarter to pick up its fifth win in a row.Barak Peleg’s squad entered the final frame down by 11 points as Kiryat Ata’s trio of Juvonte Reddic, Diante Garrett and Amin Stevens paced Sharon Avrahami team. But the Israeli duo of Roi Huber and Itay Moskovits, as well as Deishuan Booker, had other plans as the hosts rallied with a 15-1 run for a 30-13 period to snatch the win.Huber led all scorers with 23 points, Moskovits added 22 points and Booker checked in with 14 points in the win for Galil Elyon as Garrett with 19 points, Reddic with 18 points and Stevens with 16 points paced the way for Kiryat Ata in the loss.Huber spoke about the win.“This wasn’t one of our best games, but in the last quarter we were able to come back to take the win. The home fans really made a difference for us and gave us the energy to take this big victory.”Meanwhile, Bnei Herzliya defeated Ness Ziona 96-92 in overtime as Oded Brandwein - who got the start in place of the injured Chris Babb - was the X-factor for Oren Aharoni’s team with 13 points and six assists.Julian Gamble led the way with 26 points, Maurice Kemp added 23 points while Quinton Hooker scored 17 points in the win. Tyler Bey scored 25 points, Jerome Meyinsee added 20 points and DJ Cooper scored 14 points and dished out 13 assists in the defeat.