Yellow-and-blue survives nervy Alba affair

Maccabi Tel Aviv overcomes Germans to secure its place in the Top 16 with two regular season games to play.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Brian Randle drives to the hoop (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Brian Randle drives to the hoop
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Despite an erratic Euroleague campaign, Maccabi Tel Aviv moved to the brink of qualification for the Top 16 on Thursday night, beating Alba Berlin 95-89 in a back-and-forth contest at Nokia Arena.
Maccabi (5-3) entered Thursday’s game against Alba (3-5) on the back of equaling its heaviest- ever home loss in continental competition. Guy Goodes’s side was thoroughly outplayed in an 84-61 thrashing at the hands of CSKA last week and had also lost its previous Euroleague encounter at Nokia to Cedevita Zagreb.
However, Devin Smith and Brian Randle ensured the yellow- and-blue got the better of Alba on Thursday, with Jeremy Pargo once more providing crucial clutch baskets.
Smith had 26 points and five rebounds, with Randle finishing with 21 points. Yogev Ohayon added 13 points and eight assists for Maccabi, which will officially secure its progress to the Top 16 should the unbeaten CSKA defeat the 2-5 Cedevita Zagreb in Russia on Friday.
Jamal McLean scored 16 points for Berlin.
Maccabi got off to a bright start, opening an early eight-point gap (14-6) following a Sofoklis Schortsanitis basket. Alba quickly bounced back, although it was still down by six points (25-19) after the first period.
Smith opened a double-digit cushion (32-22) early in the second quarter, but the Germans scored the next nine points to remain in touch and took a slender four-point advantage (46-42) into the second half.
Maccabi had the better of the third quarter, but there was still everything to play for entering the final 10 minutes, with the yellow-and-blue leading 68-63.
Berlin got off to the better start in the fourth frame, with Cliff Hammond’s three-pointer moving Alba in front (73-72).
Another triple by Alex Renfroe, Berlin’s third in the period, gave the visitors a four-point margin, but Maccabi would reply with a game-winning 12-2 run.
Randle and Smith inspired the surge, but it was Pargo, with his first field goal of the night, which capped it, giving the yellow-and-blue an 84-78 advantage with 2:28 minutes to play.
Pargo then hit another three with 1:40 remaining to reestablish a six-point gap (87-81) from which Alba could not return.
Maccabi will already be back on court on Saturday when it visits Maccabi Ashdod in the BSL. Also Saturday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Bnei Herzliya.
In BSL action on Thursday, Hapoel Tel Aviv continued its recent surge with a third straight victory, while Maccabi Rishon Lezion returned to winning ways and the previously struggling Hapoel Eilat triumphed for the third time in its past four contests.
Hapoel Tel Aviv beat Ironi Ness Ziona 86-73 behind another balanced display by Oded Katash’s roster. Hapoel scored 12 of the final 16 points of the third quarter to open a double-digit gap (66-56) on the way to its fourth win in the past four games.
Durand Scott had 19 points for Hapoel (6-4), with Raviv Limonad and Larry O’Bannon adding 18 points each. Craig Smith scored 22 points for Ness Ziona (6-4).
After dropping to defeats to Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion got back on track with an 80-72 victory over Hapoel Gilboa/Galil.
Jackie Carmichael led Rishon (7-3) with 17 points, while Alex Young scored 17 points for Gilboa (4-6).
Eilat outscored Ironi Nahariya 31-16 in the fourth quarter to claim an 88-78 win in Israel’s southernmost city.
Khalif Wyatt led six Eilat (4-6) players in double figures with 19 points, with Eyal Shulman scoring 16 points for Nahariya (2-8).