Maccabi Tel Aviv advances to State Cup quarters

Wilbekin powers yellow-and-blue past Hap Haifa • Jerusalem maintains perfect league record

Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion lights the Hanukkah candles at Pais Arena before Hapoel Jerusalem’s 96-86 Winner League victory over Hapoel Holon. (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion lights the Hanukkah candles at Pais Arena before Hapoel Jerusalem’s 96-86 Winner League victory over Hapoel Holon.
Maccabi Tel Aviv disposed of Hapoel Haifa 98-73 with a huge second half to advance to the quarterfinals of the Israel State Cup.
The yellow-and-blue outscored the Carmel Reds 55-33 over the final 20 minutes thanks to a well-rounded attack led by Scottie Wilbekin.
Wilbekin led all scorers with 21 points and eight assists, Ante Zizic added 14 points and 11 rebounds, Tyler Dorsey checked in with 12 points, captain John DiBartolomeo scored 11 points and Yovel Zoosman chipped in with 10 points in the win.
Keenan Evans and Egor Nestrenko scored 16 points apiece for Hapoel Haifa in the loss.
“We were very concentrated for all parts of the game,” said winning coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos. “Although we didn’t have a big lead in the first half it was just a matter of time until we built up the lead. I am happy that our injured players [DiBartolomeo and Zoosman] who returned were able to help the team and played very well.”
DiBartolomeo, who recently returned to play after being out for an entire year, spoke about getting back into the rhythm.
“I have to be patient and go game by game. I hope I can continue to build on this. I’ll do my best and I am sure I’ll have good days and bad days. But the most important thing is to help as much as I can and stay patient and not to be too hard on myself.”
The teams played a tight first quarter with plenty of points coming in the paint by both sides by their respective big men, Othello Hunter and Egor Nestrenko, as the yellow-and-blue held a slight advantage 22-19 after 10 minutes.
Wilbekin drained a trio of triples in the second quarter, but Rakeem Buckles matched the Maccabi guard shot for shot as Sfairopoulos’s squad maintained a slim three-point lead (43-40) at halftime.
Maccabi came out on fire in the third quarter as Zoosman and DiBartolomeo took control of the offense as the yellow-and-blue rattled off a 31-15 frame to go up 74-55 after three stanzas.
Ante Zizic scored on the inside and Wilbekin continued to find the hoop from the outside as Maccabi finished off the 25-point victory to punch its ticket to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile in Israeli league play, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Bnei Herzliya 96-86 in a game that was never close as the Reds dominated the contest from the get-go.
Oded Katash’s squad broke open the clash in the third quarter as Sulieman Braimoh, J’Covan Brown and Tamir Blatt couldn’t miss to help Jerusalem up its perfect league record to 6-0.
Braimoh led all scorers with 25 points, Idan Zalmanson added 14 points and eight rebounds, Brown scored 13 points and Blatt dropped 12 points, going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Coty Clarke scored 21 points, Terrell Parks added 16 points and Max Heidegger chipped in with 14 points for Herzliya in a losing cause.
“I wasn’t happy with giving up 40 points in the first half,” said Katash. “But we showed our defense in the third quarter which ended up winning the game for us.”
Herzliya coach Sharon Drucker was less than pleased with his team’s performance.
“A loss doesn’t disappoint me on one condition – that the players fight, battle and are aggressive, which I didn’t see for the first three quarters. I finally found that in the last quarter. We need to have a revolution, not all the players but ones who care and will show heart. I’ve been in these situations before and we will do our best.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Holon defeated Hapoel Beersheba 89-86 in an exciting game down south in the capital of the desert.
Chris Johnson (27 points) and CJ Harris (20 points) paced Stefanos Dedas’s club throughout the clash while Eric Griffin (32 points) kept Rami Hadar’s team close enough for Spencer Weisz to have a chance to tie up the game with the final shot, though his effort went off the rim as the visitors earned the win.
Also, Hapoel Tel Aviv walloped Ironi Nahariya 94-71 as Reggie Upshaw led the way for the Reds with 33 points in the win.
After a close first half that saw Hapoel head into half-time up by just two points (43-41), Yam Madar, Gabe York and Upshaw led the attack to smother the northern squad to take the victory.
York scored 20 points, Madar ended the game with 18 points and Jonathan Mor chipped in with 12 points for Ioannis Kastritis’s squad. Kalin Lucas with 16 points and Joe Alexander with 14 points paced Danny Franco’s team in the loss.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion just got by Ironi Ness Ziona 79-74 in a hard-fought battle that saw up-and-coming star Noam Avivi score a career-high 22 points and add 10 rebounds in the win. Trey Lewis hit a huge triple to put Guy Goodes’s squad up by six points with 29 seconds left to seal the win.
Kwan Cheatham led Ness Ziona with 18 points while newcomer Braian Angola added 17 points in defeat.
Hapoel Eilat continued its hot start with an 85-81 win at struggling Maccabi Haifa.
In a back-and-forth game throughout the 40 minutes, Joe Ragland drilled home a three-pointer as time wound down to seal the deal for the Red Sea squad.
Casey Prather led the way for Ariel Beit Halachmi’s team with 26 points and nine rebounds to go with five assists and steals, Ragland scored 21 point,  added seven boards and dished out eight assists while rookie Josh Nebo checked in with a double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Guards Michael Brisker and Avi Ben Shimol each scored 21 points for Haifa in the loss.