Mac Tel Aviv nips Hapoel in playoff opener

Jerusalem drills Ness Ziona in Game 1 of quarterfinals • Holon rallies past Gilboa • Rishon tops Ma Haifa

Hapoel Jerusalem big man Emmanuel Terry in the Reds’ 104-79 home win over Ness Ziona in Game 1 of their best-of-3 quarterfinal. (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
Hapoel Jerusalem big man Emmanuel Terry in the Reds’ 104-79 home win over Ness Ziona in Game 1 of their best-of-3 quarterfinal.
Maccabi Tel Aviv needed some late-game heroics from Deni Avdija to notch a 67-66 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv in Game 1of their quarterfinal derby on Saturday night.
The Reds controlled the game from the get-go, but a 20-10 fourth quarter from Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad handed the yellow-and-blue a slim one-point victory.
“We won the game thanks to our effort on defense,” said a relieved Sfairopoulos. “We didn’t work hard enough before the last quarter. Playoffs are different than regular season and the pressure is on the home team and we were nervous. We were impatient and didn’t play solid defense. We gave them a chance to score points and in the last period we completely changed.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv had the upper hand throughout the first quarter as Yam Madar and Joaquin Szuchman helped the Reds to a 20-16 lead after 10 minutes of play. Jake Cohen and Yovel Zoosman tried to jump start the yellow-and-blue in the second frame, but Hapoel’s Jordan Davis came back from injury with a vengeance to end the first half with 12 points as Ioannis Kastritis’s squad took an eight-point advantage (39-31)  into halftime.
Othello Hunter scored for Maccabi to cut the lead, but Talib Zanna and Tomer Ginat kept Hapoel in front 49-40 midway through the third quarter.
Daniel Cooperberg found the basket for the Reds as did Madar to give Hapoel a 56-47 lead after 30 minutes.
Amar’e Stoudemire got the fourth quarter started with a quick dunk while Scottie Wilbekin led Maccabi to a 8-0 run to start off the final frame, but Sek Henry kept the Reds in front 65-62 thanks to a triple with 2:21 to go in regulation.
However, Avdija would have the last laugh as he scored a layup and then a three-pointer to will the yellow-and-blue to the tight triumph.
Also, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Ness Ziona 104-79 to take Game 1 of their best-of-3 quarterfinal series in the capital.
The Reds controlled the contest for the first 25 minutes thanks to a string of play by Suleiman Braimoh, but the visitors knotted up the score at 60 late in the third quarter.
However, Jeremy Pargo nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer of the frame to give Oded Katash’s squad a 70-64 lead and it never looked back en route to the 25-point win.
Game 2 was slated to take place at Lev HaMoshava in Ness Ziona late Sunday night after press time.
Braimoh led the way for the Reds with 21 points and seven rebounds, James Feldeine added 15 points, Nimrod Levi fell one rebound short of a double-double as he finished with 15 points and nine boards, while Tamir Blatt chipped in with six points and eight assists.
Rayvonte Rice scored 25 points for Nes Ziona as Cameron Oliver added 21 points and nine rebounds and JP Tokoto scored 16 points in the loss.
“I’m happy we had a bit of a tough time in the third quarter,” said Katash “If anyone thought that this series was going to be easy, they now understand that it’s not. Of course we said that it wouldn’t be a cake walk so when they experienced it they understood better what challenge they have in front of them.”
Briamoh was a force for Hapoel Jerusalem early on in the first quarter as the forward scored nine points to help the Reds to a quick 16-8 lead midway through the frame. Feldeine hit a pair of triples, but Oliver and Rice found the basket for Ness Ziona as the Reds held a six-point advantage (24-18) after 10 minutes.
John Holland began to heat up with points for Jerusalem, which ripped off a 7-0 run to start the second quarter to stay in front 38-29 with five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Blatt drained a three-pointer off a perfectly placed screen while Tokoto put down a mega dunk for Nadav Zilberstein’s team at the other end as Jerusalem led 47-35 at halftime.
Rice, Tokoto and veteran guard Raviv Limonad began cutting into the Jerusalem advantage, but Emanuel Terry and Feldeine kept the Reds in the lead 55-47 midway through the third quarter. Rice, Limonad and Oliver all scored for Ness Ziona, which pulled to within three points but Pargo hit a triple at the buzzer to give Jerusalem a 70-64 lead after 30 minutes.
Idan Zalmanson opened the fourth quarter with points as did Levi and Braimoh as Jerusalem bumped the lead quickly up to 79-67 with 7:35 remaining in regulation. Levi continued to score as did Terry and Bar Timor and Ness Ziona couldn’t answer the Reds' power surge as they cruised to the convincing conquest.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Holon came back from a late 17-point deficit to defeat Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 80-77 to take Game 1 of their best-of-3 quarterfinal series.
With the Galilee team ahead 70-53 in the fourth quarter, Holon held the visitors scoreless for close to eight minutes as Shavon Coleman, Guy Pnini, Yogev Ohayon and Shlomi Harush led a furious comeback to pick up the victory.
Coleman led the way for Holon with 19 points, Jimmy Hall clocked in a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, Roi Huber added 12 points and Pnini finished the contest with 11 points.
Akil Mitchell scored 14 points and Iftach Ziv added 13 points for Gilboa in the defeat.
“We gave a lot of heart and soul,” explained Ohayon. “I think we did a great job with our team defense. Galil is a toughand young team and I believe that they will be ready to respond, but we have to come back on Monday with the same desire and drive.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Rishon Lezion beat Maccabi Haifa 87-72 at Beit Maccabi to take a 1-0 lead in their quarterfinal matchup.
Guy Goodes’s squad jumped out to a 21-12 lead after 10 minutes and never looked back thanks to a 27-point, 11-rebound performance by D’Angelo Harrison. Zach Hankins also clocked in a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, Darryl Monroe scored 14 points and Alex Hamilton added 13 points in the win.
Reggie Upshaw scored 14 points, Andrew Andrews added 13 points and captain Willy Workman chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds for Haifa. Game 2 took place on Sunday night at Romema in Haifa.
“ The job’s not done and I haven’t won a playoff series since I have been a pro,” said Harrison. “My main focus right now is getting out of the first round and just continuing to build good habits with the team. We have a good team, good guys and everyone is about the team which is something that you can see when we play. We stick together and make the game hard for our opponents.”