Blatt’s Mac Attack hoists League Cup again

Yellow-and-blue pulls out 87-77 victory in the capital to deny Katash’s Hap J’lem.

BSL League Cup 311 (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv Website)
BSL League Cup 311
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv Website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv claimed the BSL League Cup for the first time in three years on Thursday night, but there were plenty of reasons for concern for coach David Blatt a week before the start of the Euroleague campaign.
Despite defeating Hapoel Jerusalem 87-77 at Malha Arena, Blatt will rightly be worried with the fact that his team let a 20-point first half lead slip after the break and needed a late run to clinch the win.
“Any win in Jerusalem is impressive,” Blatt said. “I’m very pleased with our play in the first half, but Jerusalem was excellent in the third period and we had to fight it out in the end.”
After humbling Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Barak Netanya to reach the League Cup final, Maccabi completely dominated Jerusalem in the first half, opening a double-digit margin by the end of the first period.
However, despite still being without injured key-guards Will Solomon and Yuval Naimi, Oded Katash’s Jerusalem fought back to take the lead in the fourth quarter and made Maccabi battle for the win.
Hapoel begins its league campaign at Bnei Hasharon on Monday, while the new-look Maccabi hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in a repeat of last year’s final on Sunday before facing its first real stern test of the season at Caja Laboral Vitoria in its Euroleague opener.
Jeremy Pargo led Maccabi with 20 points, with David Bluthenthal adding 15 points.
Sam Clancy and Jason Rich had 17 points each for Jerusalem, with Yogev Ohayon superb once more with 14 points and nine assists.
Maccabi got off to a quick start thanks some excellent defensive play, with Jeremy Pargo’s basket giving the yellow- and-blue a double-figure margin (12-2) after three-anda- half minutes.
Jerusalem scored just six points in the first four minutes of the game and Lior Eliyahu increased the gap to 19-6 after a trademark two-pointer.
Tel Aviv continued to pull ahead as the first period progressed, with two consecutive threes by David Bluthenthal, who has shortened his surname to Blu, opening a 30-14 advantage.
Hapoel cut the deficit to 13- points (30-17) by the end of the quarter, but Maccabi maintained its dominance in the second period, with another Blu triple extending the margin to 20 points (41-21).
The Jerusalemites never gave up the chase, but they had a mountain to climb at the break, trailing 55-39 after 20 minutes.
The hosts began the second half with an 11-2 run to close within seven (57-50).
Maccabi completely lost its range and after missing several opportunities a Brian Randle three-point play brought Hapoel within four points (59-55).
Katash’s men continued to eat at the lead and with 1:20 to play in the period tied the score at 62-62 following Ohayon’s jumper.
Blu ensured Tel Aviv was still ahead with 10 minutes to play after another three (68-64), but the momentum remained on Jerusalem’s side.
Hapoel began the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run, capped by a Jason Rich three, to take its first lead of the night, but it was Maccabi which had the final laugh.
Hapoel’s players were visibly tiring with every second that passed, and a Perkins three followed by a Pargo triple gave Maccabi a seven-point lead (82-75) it would maintain on its way to a first title in the 2010/11 campaign.
Earlier Thursday, Jerusalem was drawn into Group G of the Eurocup with strong Spanish team Cajasol Seville, Czech League perennial champion CEZ Nymburk guided by Israeli Neno Ginzburg and VEF Riga of Latvia.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil will play in the daunting Group D, which includes Sharon Drucker’s Aris Thessaloniki, Ukrainian League champ BC Azovmash and Croatia’s Cedevita Zagreb.