Mac TA humbled by short-handed Haifa

Yellow-and-blue loses fifth straight league game • J’lem gathers momentum • Eilat up to first place.

Maccabi Haifa forward Amit Simhon (center) scored 16 points in last night’s 79-63 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv and Guy Pnini at Yad Eliyahu Arena (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Haifa forward Amit Simhon (center) scored 16 points in last night’s 79-63 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv and Guy Pnini at Yad Eliyahu Arena
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv dropped to another embarrassing defeat on Thursday night, overshadowing Hapoel Eilat’s move up to first place in the BSL standings.
Eilat beat Bnei Herzliya 79-71 for its 12th win from the past 14 games, improving to an 18-10 record and moving ahead of Hapoel Holon on a tiebreaker. Holon fell to 18-10 after Curtis Jerrells hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Hapoel Jerusalem a 73-71 win on the road.
Maccabi suffered a humbling 79-63 defeat and is at 17-11 following a fifth consecutive league loss, a club record. After 56 consecutive losses, Haifa beat the yellowand- blue at Yad Eliyahu Arena in regular season action for the first time ever.
Haifa lost Will Graves to a scary injury in the second quarter, with the American forward losing consciousness for a few seconds after taking a nasty fall and hitting his head on the floor. But the Greens still had little trouble overcoming the shambolic Maccabi, pulling ahead by outscoring the hosts 28-9 in the second quarter before leading by as many as 20 points (57-37) in the third frame.
A 15-0 run saw Tel Aviv close to within five points (57-52), but Haifa responded with a 12-3 surge to secure the victory and improve to 15-13, tied with Jerusalem.
Gregory Vargas scored 20 points for Haifa, with Devin Smith netting 14 points for Maccabi.
In Holon, Jerusalem got off to an excellent start despite playing without Amar’e Stoudemire, with new signing Richard Howell quickly settling in. In his first game since joining from Hapoel Tel Aviv, the American center, who received Israeli citizenship two weeks ago, made his biggest contribution on the defensive end and Jerusalem led by 12 points (27-15) after 10 minutes.
Holon trailed by eight points at the break (41-33) after missing its first 10 three-point attempts, but closed to within only three points (41-38) when James Bell hit the team’s first triple early in the second half.
Another Bell three capped a 15-2 Holon run that gave the hosts a three-point lead (66-63). His fourth triple of the night tied the score (71-71) with 14 seconds to play, only for Jerrells to win the game at the buzzer.
“That is a shot I practice all the time,” said Jerrells. “I had confidence it was going in. I missed a lot of threes tonight and coach and my teammates told me to keep shooting and the last one went down for me.”
Jerrells finished the night with 20 points, five assists and four rebounds, with Howell contributing six points and 11 rebounds.
Italian Alessandro Gentile also made his debut, failing to score in nine minutes.
In Herzliya, Eilat led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, but was ahead by only six (38-32) at the break.
The hosts moved into the lead at the start of the third period, but a 12-0 Eilat surge reestablished a double-digit gap (53-42) that the visitors wouldn’t squander.
Landon Milbourne had 17 points for Eilat, with Karam Mashour finishing with a double-double of 16 points and 19 rebounds for Herzliya.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Ashdod’s women’s team won its fourth straight championship on Thursday, completing a 3-1 series win over Maccabi Ramat Hen with a 71-62 victory.
Ashdod has won five of the past six women’s league titles, with captain Shay Doron lifting her third championship shield since joining the club.