Sfairopoulos comes up short in home Euroleague debut

Maccabi Tel Aviv's European record fell to 1-8 with the loss.

IOANNIS SFAIROPOULOS, then-coach of the Olympiacos, reacts during the 2017 Euroleague Final Four Final in Istanbul (photo credit: ANTONIO BRONIC/ REUTERS)
IOANNIS SFAIROPOULOS, then-coach of the Olympiacos, reacts during the 2017 Euroleague Final Four Final in Istanbul
Maccabi Tel Aviv put in a valiant effort in coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s home Euroleague debut against Fenerbahce but came up short 74-70 as their continental record fell to 1-8.
The yellow-and-blue played lock-down defense and aggressive basketball for the full 40 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to get by the Istanbul-based team. Scottie Wilbekin and Angelo Caloiaro scored 15 points apiece while Tarik Black and Kendrick Ray each dropped 8 points in defeat. Kostas Sloukas led the visitors with 18 points, Marko Guduric added 13 points, which all came in the fourth quarter, and Jan Vesely chipped in with 11 points in the win.
Sfairopoulos’s squad began the game with stifling defense and snagged a 3-point, 16-13 lead after 10 minutes as Black, Ray and DeAndre Kane scored 4 points apiece in the opening frame. Maccabi extended their lead to 41-36 at halftime as Wilbekin and Caloiaro each found 6 points apiece in the second quarter, while NBA prospect Deni Avdija made his Euroleague debut and scored his first points in the competition. Sloukas came out hot after halftime with 8 points as Fenerbahce outscored Maccabi 19-12 in the third quarter to take a 55-53 advantage into the final frame as Guduric secured the victory by dropping 13 points in just over four minutes to return the win to Turkey.
In the Israel Basketball League, James Feldeine hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to give Hapoel Jerusalem an 89-88 win over Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel’s desert capital. Feldeine drilled home 28 points including four three-pointers but none bigger than his winner – thanks to a terrific assist by Tamir Blatt who scored 18 points and dished out 8 helpers. Tashawn Thomas scored 18 points and pulled down 19 rebounds as Jerusalem grabbed 50 boards on the night, 24 of which came on the offensive glass. Semaj Christon dropped 31 points, Travis Warech scored 18 points and Jakim Donaldson grabbed 18 rebounds in the shocking defeat.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva started off the game strong as Christon scored 12 points in the first quarter alone and capped off a 12-0 run as the host’s took a 25-15 lead after ten minutes. Blatt and Feldeine tried to keep Jerusalem close as each ended the half with 12 points apiece, but Braun and Christon kept Be’er Sheva ahead at the break 49-43. Oded Katash’s Jerusalem continued to cut the Be’er Sheva lead in the third quarter thanks to Feldeine and Thomas, as the contest headed into the final frame with the Rami Hadar’s squad sporting a one point, 68-67 lead.
Katash was ejected for arguing with the referees in the fourth quarter as both teams kept going at each other neck and neck throughout the last ten minutes of the game. As time wound down and with the 85-84 score in favor of Be’er Sheva, Thomas hit a layup to give Jerusalem the lead. But Christon then hit the front end of a pair of free throws and Donaldson tipped in the missed second attempt giving the host’s a 88-86 lead with 15 seconds left. After a controversial call by the referees that gave an out of bounds ball to the visitors, Blatt drove into the lane and dished the ball to his right beyond the three-point line where Feldeine was waiting to nail the game winning three-pointer at the buzzer sending the Jerusalem fans into ecstasy.
James Feldeine spoke about his winner, “Tough win and we fought hard for this win. This was a big win for us. We showed character and how tough we are when we play defense.”
Hapoel Holon again needed a big fourth quarter to defeat a game Bnei Herzliya 86-78 as Dan Shamir’s squad won their third straight contest. With visiting Herzliya sporting a ten point 64-54 lead at the end of the thirty minutes, Corey Walden sparked a 32-14 fourth quarter to help the host’s win. Walden’s 19 points and 7 assists led six Holon players who ended the night in double figures as Amit Simhon added 14 points and TJ Cline chipped in with 13 points and 8 rebounds in the victory. Jeff Adrien scored 16 points as did Gabe Levin who was making his professional debut after returning from a hand injury for Herzliya. Khalif Wyatt helped Holon to an 11-2 run and 23-15 lead after the first quarter, but Herzliya led by a strong play from Levin, who took a 39-38 advantage into halftime. A 17-2 run by the visitor’s helped Herzliya to a 64-54 lead after thirty minutes but Holon took total control of the fourth quarter to record the win.
Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted 1,000 children from the Gaza peripheral communities and treated them to a big 98-64 win over a short-handed Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion. Ioannis Sfairopoulos won his first game as Maccabi coach and enjoyed seeing six of his players end the evening in double digits. Angelo Caloiaro and Tarik Black led the way to 44-32 advantage at halftime while Scottie Wilbekin, Alex Tyus and Jake Cohen broke the game open to give Maccabi a 34-point win.
Hapoel Eilat rattled off their fifth win in a row to move their record to 5-3 ahead of the international break by taking down a struggling Nahariya 77-71. Elijah Bryant scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 12 points for Eilat who featured 9 players on the score sheet. Myke Henry scored a game high 26 points while Terry Allen dropped 18 points, however, Tim Quarterman went 0/14 to finish with zero points in his 27-minute debut for the northern squad.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil needed a fourth quarter comeback to defeat Maccabi Ashdod 103-95. Ariel Beit Halachmi’s Gilboa/Galil squad were down by 9-points, 85-76 in the final frame but a 15-0 run led by Bryant Crawford, Greg Whittington and Ian Miller secured the victory. Ashdod raced out to a 36-29 lead after ten minutes as Winston Shefford and Paul Stoll did the damage for the visitor’s but James Kelly and Whittington helped the host’s get back into the game and take a 54-48 lead into halftime. Landon Milbourne gave Ashdod a 76-74 lead at the end of thirty minutes and took a 85-76 lead early on in the fourth quarter before Gilboa/Galil turned on the jets and took the 8-point win.
Hapoel Tel Aviv turned around a 13-point halftime deficit to snatch a 90-78 win over Nes Ziona. Renewed energy in the second half by the Reds and double-doubles by Richard Howell and Tomer Ginat helped Danny Franco’s squad to a terrific come from behind win that saw the host’s give up only 27 points in the final twenty minutes.