Maccabi TA staves off Hapoel in playoff derby Game 1

Yellow-and-blue survive scare against brave Reds.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv overcame a valiant effort by Hapoel Tel Aviv to claim a 76-68 victory at Nokia Arena on Thursday night and take a 1-0 lead in the BSL quarterfinal playoffs.
Maccabi led by as many as 22 points (42-20) in the second quarter, but Hapoel ended the first half with a 13-0 run to close within single digits (42-33). The Reds came within a sole possession (59- 56) midway through the fourth period, largely thanks to Anthony Goods, who scored 15 points in the final frame alone.
However, Maccabi held on for a win to move into an important lead in the best-of-five series.
Ricky Hickman scored 23 points for the yellow-and-blue, including 10 in the fourth quarter, with Devin Smith adding 16 points.
Goods ended the game with 20 points for Hapoel, which will draw plenty of encouragement from Thursday’s defeat ahead of Game 2 in its home-court in Rishon Lezion on Sunday.
There was plenty more drama elsewhere on Thursday, with Maccabi Haifa (2) requiring a Pat Calathes buzzer-beater to edge Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (7) 87-85, while Maccabi Rishon Lezion (6) stunned Hapoel Eilat (3) on the road with a 79-77 win.
A 16-2 second-quarter run put Haifa in the driving seat (37-23) and the hosts still seemed to be in complete control when they took a 68-57 margin into the final frame.
However, Gilboa constantly ate away at the gap and Jamar Smith’s three-pointer with eight seconds to play in Romema tied the game at 85-85, only for Calathes to hit a long jumper from the corner to give the Greens a 1-0 lead.
Donta Smith led Haifa with 20 points, while Paul Stoll scored 16 and Calathes added 15 points.
Jamar Smith ended the night with 24 points for Gilboa, which will be confident of leveling the series when it hosts Game 2 on Monday after giving Haifa a real run for its money.
Eilat entered Game 1 against Rishon as a clear favorite, going 11-3 at home in the regular season, while Rishon had lost six straight games before beating Hapoel Jerusalem in a meaningless encounter earlier this week.
However, Rishon led throughout the series opener and staved off an Eilat comeback to steal home-court advantage from the southerners.
A Scotty Hopson three with nine seconds remaining brought Eilat back on level terms (77-77), but Adrian Uter’s free throws with five seconds left gave Rishon a deserved victory.
Uter led Rishon with 21 points and 13 rebounds, with Israeli youngster Or Solomon continuing his recent excellent form with 15 points.
Hopson had 34 points for Eilat, which will feel that it has to emerge victorious at Rishon on Monday to keep alive its hopes of reaching the semifinals.