Yellow-and-blue starting to build momentum

After beating Barca, Maccabi hosts Pana in Euroleague • Jerusalem into State Cup quarterfinals

MACCABI TEL AVIV guard John DiBartolomeo is working his way back into form as the club is also playing much better with its captain in the lineup.  (photo credit: BARCELONA BASKETBALL CLUB)
MACCABI TEL AVIV guard John DiBartolomeo is working his way back into form as the club is also playing much better with its captain in the lineup.
Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Panathinaikos on Tuesday night in Euroleague Gameday 16 as the yellow-and-blue will look to continue its recent fine play.
Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad has won three of its last four continental games to improve its record to 6-9 with two home games coming up as it looks to inch closer towards the .500 mark.
Panathinaikos sports a 5-9 record and features one of Europe’s top players in Nemanja Nedovic along with former Hapoel Holon standout Marcus Foster and ex-Jerusalem guard Shelvin Mack. Head coach Georgios Vovoras took over the club on a permanent basis after Rick Pitino returned to the United States to join Iona College in New York.
Maccabi defeated Barcelona 68-67 in its last European contest, in which saw Othello Hunter put down a go-ahead alley-oop with 13 seconds left and made a last-ditch defensive play on Barcelona star Cory Higgins to secure the surprise victory.
“I want to congratulate our players for the great effort that they showed tonight,” said Sfairopoulos. “I think that, from the very first moment, we were very focused on the plan that we had. We were fighting also to support the plan, and for this reason, I think that it was very important how we played the game. We put the way of how we want to play the game and in the last stretch, we gave our maximum, all that we had, to win the game.”
Dragan Bender, who led Maccabi in scoring with 15 points, felt that playing tough from the get-go helped his team to the victory.
“We had a tough week after losing Wednesday's game against ASVEL,” he said. “We came out motivated to win this one tonight. From the first moment, we were aggressive, and we deserved the win.”
In Israel State Cup action, Hapoel Jerusalem sunk Hapoel Eilat 90-81 to punch its ticket to the quarterfinal round of the Israel State Cup.
Katash’s squad dominated the second quarter to take a 48-39 lead thanks to buckets by veteran guard Chris Kramer and big man TaShawn Thomas as the Reds never looked back to take the lead for good and punch their ticket to the next round of the knockout tournament.
Kramer led the way with 19 points, Suleiman Briamoh and Thomas added 16 points while Jamil Wilson, who was making his Jerusalem debut, chipped in with 14 points in the win. Josh Nebo led the way for Eilat with 22 points and nine rebounds as Casey Prather and Joe Ragland each scored 21 points for Ariel Beit Halachmi’s team in the loss.
“Most of the preparation on the mental side was to just remind the players that this game was a must- win,” explained Katash. “We’ve played a bunch of teams that weren’t up to the level of Eilat, not to put down any of those clubs and I was concerned that they would play like it was just another league game.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Rishon Lezion dropped pesky Hapoel Beersheba 87-80 in an aggressive, action-packed contest in the wine city.
Akil Mitchell and Golan Gutt spearheaded a 13-0 run near the end of the third quarter to break the game open and take the victory. Mitchell led the way with 24 points, 13 rebounds, five steals and five assists for an efficiency rating of 45, Darryl Monroe also checked in with a 19-point and 11-rebound double-double while Trey Lewis and Isaiah Taylor each scored 14 points for Guy Goodes’s squad.
Amir Bell with 25 points and Spencer Weisz with 24 points paced Rami Hadar’s team in the loss.
“It’s not always pretty but a win is win and I’ll take it,” said an ecstatic Mitchell to The Jerusalem Post following the game. “My teammates helped me out and we knew Beersheba well so we knew what kind of game it was going to be. I’m just happy to get the win. We have to be able to go on runs and every team in the league is talented. We got to be able to find stretches like that and we did tonight.”
Also, Hapoel Tel Aviv downed upstart Maccabi Netanya 77-70, outscoring the diamond city squad 49-30 in the second half to stave off an upset.
Netanya jumped out to a 40-26 lead after 20 minutes, but on the strength of Itay Moskovits with 24 points and Bryce Washington with 19 points. But Reds newcomer Gabe York’s 18 points, Yam Madar’s 15 points and Reggie Upshaw’s 11 points helped Coach Ioannis Kastritis take the hard-earned win.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Holon eased by Hapoel Acre 87-67 as Stefanos Dedas’s squad jumped out to a 45-30 lead after two quarters and never looked back.
Tyrus McGee scored 15 points and added eight assists and Willy Workman added 13 points in the win that saw the purples punch their ticket to the quarterfinals. Liran Moran paced Acre with 26 points in the loss.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil defeated Nahariya 83-75 thanks to a 21-11 final frame to capture the win.
Joe Thommason scored 18 points while Netanel Artzi and Isaiah Cousins each chipped in with 11 points for Lior Lubin’s team.
Michael Young led Danny Franco’s squad with 21 points and Jaron Blossomgame scored 14 points in the defeat.
Maccabi Haifa was all over Ramat Hasharon in a 101-80 rout to advance to the State Cup quarterfinals.
Roman Sorkin starred for Daniel Seoane’s crew with 27 points and 10 rebounds, Rigoberto Mendoza added 21 points and Avi Ben Shimol scored 19 points for
the Greens. JeQuan Lewis led Ramat Hasharon with 24 points in the loss.