Basketball: Maccabi thumps Hapoel in cup rematch

Hapoel's State Cup final comeback from 22 points down of ten days earlier felt like worlds away as the Euroleague team showed its class and quality.

maccabi tel aviv 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
maccabi tel aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
This was no cup final repeat. Despite the air of expectation amongst the home fans in the Malha Arena on Sunday night, Maccabi Tel Aviv restored its supremacy in the BSL with a 101-85 demolition of Hapoel Jerusalem, just when Dan Shamir's charges felt this was their time to shine. Hapoel's State Cup final comeback from 22 points down of ten days earlier felt like worlds away as the Euroleague team showed its class and quality. Although Maccabi led for nearly the entire game, the scores were close until the middle of the third quarter when the visiting yellows went on an unstoppable 12-0 run After a dreadful start to the season under Oded Katash, coach Tzvika Sherf has turned Maccabi around from a weak side lacking in confidence back into the champion it always was and showed the cup final loss was only a blip. Tel Aviv proved its strength in depth, winning triumphantly, despite missing key players Marcus Fizer and Nikola Vujcic through injury. On the home side, Timmy Bowers was missing for Hapoel, having traveled to the US over the weekend after his wife had a baby. After his introduction in the second quarter, Lior Eliyahu ran rings around Hapoel, storming to prominence in the third period when he scored six points and controlling the play throughout. The home crowd was less than welcoming for the return of Terence Morris, who rejected a big money offer from Hapoel to move to Tel Aviv in the postseason. But Morris proved his worth to the yellows, leading all scorers with 18 points. Will Bynum was close behind with 17 points. Speaking after the game, Maccabi's Vonteego Cummings said: "Tonight we knew it was going be a tough game coming here with their crowd and the way they beat us last game in the cup but we wanted to come here and show we're a great team... We knew it was going to be different with Nikola and Marcus out." Also Sunday, Ironi Ramat Gan beat Maccabi Rishon Letzion 98- 93, Bnei Hasharon won 70-60 against Ironi Ashkelon and Hapoel Galil Elyon beat Ironi Nahariya 80-75 In Jerusalem, Sharon Sasson scored the first points of the game for the home team, driving through the Maccabi defense for a layup and two points. After Hapoel captain Erez Markovitch was caught traveling Morris got his first points with an easy three to make it 5-2, but Dror Hajaj pulled back two for Jerusalem to keep the score at 5-4 to Maccabi. Maccabi stayed ahead by firing in the three-pointers and led 18-12. Guy Pnini latched onto an offensive rebound and scored his team's first three of the night but this was followed by Yotam Halperin's return triple and the score was 21-15. Morris ended the first quarter by giving Maccabi a 28-27 lead after scoring two free throws. The crowd was clearly getting to Morris who beat his chest in excitement after scoring. Ramel Curry opened the second quarter with a quick layup to put the hosts in the lead. Ex-Maccabi Noel Felix dunked to the delight of the crowd and made it 32-28 to Hapoel. But the four-point lead was as good as it would get for Hapoel. A Morris two-pointer tied the scores at 43 and then Derrick Sharp shot a pinpoint three-pointer to make it 46-43 to Maccabi with 2.53 left in the half. At the end of the first half Maccabi had opened up a four point lead (55-51). The home side ran out of steam in the second half. Cummings scored the second of two three-pointers near the start of the third period to give the visiting team a 66-60 lead, part of the 12-0 run which ended with an Eliyahu dunk. From then on it was all Maccabi. Jerusalem continuously missed opportunities while Sharp and Morris pulled Maccabi away. Hapoel will have little time to regroup. On Tuesday Jerusalem hosts Besiktas in a crucial ULEB Cup game which Shamir will not want to lose.