Maccabi Tel Aviv stays ahead of the pack

Hapoel Haifa returns to action with upset of Hapoel Jerusalem • Maccabi Haifa tops Hap TA

 HAPOEL HAIFA players celebrate on the court after their surprise 100-87 road victory over Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel Winner League action in the capital. (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
HAPOEL HAIFA players celebrate on the court after their surprise 100-87 road victory over Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel Winner League action in the capital.
Maccabi Tel Aviv pummeled Ness Ziona 96-74 in Israel Winner League action as Scottie Wilbekin helped lead the hosts to the convincing conquest.
With the score 54-51 midway through the third quarter, the yellow-and-blue used an 18-3 run to end the third quarter to notch the win.
Wilbekin led the way with 16 points, Tyler Dorsey added 14 points, Chris Jones scored 13 points while Dragan Bender chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds. Patrick Miller scored 22 points to pace Ness Ziona, Wayne Selden added 21 points and Braian Angola scored 11 points in the loss.
“It was very important for us that we had 1,000 fans and we wore the Itanu fan club jersey with all of the names of the fans that are so close to us,” said Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos. “We’re happy that we had a good game against a very good team. In the second quarter, Ness Ziona scored in transition but in the second half we covered the gaps and helped each other.”
“Maccabi played a great second half,” said Ness Ziona coach Brad Greenberg. “They guarded us and hit their three-pointers. Against them you’ve got to play more than 20 minutes. Maccabi has some big guys, they’re tough.”
Jones also reflected on the game and having supporters back in the arena.
“It was nice having more fans than normal and having them on our jersey. Getting the win was big and we’re happy with that. We protected the paint well against one of the top ranked teams from two-point range.”
Over in the capital city, Hapoel Haifa dropped Hapoel Jerusalem 100-87 as the Carmel Reds controlled the game from the get-go and dominated the hosts with six players featuring in double-digit scoring to notch the hard-earned win.
Elad Hasin’s squad played its first game in a month due to a coronavirus outbreak, but that didn’t matter as his squad jumped out to a 56-42 lead by halftime as Keenan Evans, Amit Simhon and Karam Mahsour shot lights out from beyond the arc to cruise to the victory.
Evans led the way with 23 points, Jason Siggers added 17 points, Mashour chipped in with 15 points, Simhon checked in with 11 points and Lennard Freeman recorded a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Suleiman Braimoh was Jerusalem’s high scorer with 17 points, Adam Ariel scored 15 points and Tamir Blatt scored 13 points in the loss for Dainius Adminaitis’s side.
“Wow. I think that our heart and soul was able to overcome any challenge,” Hasin said. “We didn’t have any special practices this past month due to the coronavirus, but the passion and desire of seeing the play here with one working for the other is heroic. I have no words. You can come with a great plan, but you still have to win the game. I have to take my hat off to the players.”
“I was very surprised at the energy. We were aggressive on the ball but not off the ball,” said Jerusalem coach Adomaitis. “We didn’t get offensive rebounds and we didn’t make enough fouls. There was a lack of energy and we need to be consistent defensively.”
Evans, the game’s most valuable player, also spoke about the victory.
“We came and executed our game plan and played a great game. We were aggressive on offense and we all worked together, I’m very happy. Jerusalem had the fan support and tried to come back, but together we were able to do it and we recorded a very important win.”
Up north, Maccabi Haifa downed Hapoel Tel Aviv 80-73 in a huge relegation zone matchup at the Carmel Mountain.
The back-and-forth battle saw a number of lead changes, but the Greens big man Roman Sorkin and guard Chris Dowe took the bull by the horns over the final few minutes to take the win.
Both Sorkin and Dowe scored 22 points apiece, while Kalin Lucas checked in with 19 points in the key victory. Justin Tillman led the Reds with 22 points and Tyrique Jones added 13 points in the loss.
“It took us a couple of months to get that winning feeling back but now we have to continue,” said Sorkin, the game’s MVP. “We always have believed that we can stay up in the top league and we’ve battled hard against many teams. Our coach spoke to us about where we stand and we had to respond. We are a team of men and we battled today to the win.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Rishon Lezion hung on to just get by Bnei Herzliya 87-84 on the road.
The visitors jumped out to a 27-10 lead after the first quarter, but Sharon Drucker’s squad clawed back into the game with big men Elijah Thomas and Terrell Parks leading the way and even took a slim 73-72 lead in the fourth quarter.
However, rising star Noam Dovrat and Golan Gutt hit big shots down the stretch while Akil Mitchell woke the paint to help Guy Goodes’s team to the win.
Dovrat played close to 40 minutes and scored 23 points going 5-of-8 from beyond the arc while dishing out six assists, Mitchell added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Jamil Wilson chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds but left late in the game with what looked to be a knee injury in the win.
Thomas paced the hosts with 19 points, Abdul Gaddy added 18 points and Terrell Parks scored 15 points in defeat.
Down south, Hapoel Eilat sunk Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 89-75 in a game that was never in doubt from the tip at the Red Sea city.
The hosts controlled the pace of play throughout the contest as Joe Ragland led the way with 28 points and six assists, Josh Nebo added 15 points and 12 rebounds while Casey Prather chipped in with 15 points in the win for Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad.
Kerry Blackshear was Gilboa’s high scorer with 19 points and Iftach Ziv scored 17 points in the loss.