Hapoel no match for Maccabi in TA tussle

Yellow-and-blue dominate Reds as classic rivalry renewed; Hap J’lem triumphs in Rishon.

Ricky Hickman 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ricky Hickman 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
As if six years hadn’t past since the last derby, Maccabi Tel Aviv thrashed Hapoel Tel Aviv 91-72 at Nokia Arena on Sunday night to claim a sweet victory in Israeli basketball’s ultimate grudge match.
The showdown between the Tel Aviv clubs was the highlight of the Israeli basketball season for over 50 years and much like most of those past encounters, Maccabi was the dominant force yet again on Sunday.
Hapoel’s short roster gave the yellow-and-blue a fight for much of the first half, but the hosts pulled ahead in the closing stages of the second period and secured the win in the third frame.
Lior Eliyahu led Maccabi (7- 1) with 20 points, while Ricky Hickman scored 15 and Devin Smith and Yogev Ohayon added 12 points each.
Demontez Stitt had 20 points for Hapoel (4-4), with Curtis Kelly contributing 18 points.
Maccabi used a full-court press at the start of the game in the hope of scoring some easy points from turnovers and Smith’s three-pointer gave the hosts an early sevenpoint gap (9-2).
The margin soon reached nine points, but despite playing without its inspirational captain Matan Naor, Hapoel showed admirable fighting spirit and took its first lead of the night after a Kelly basket capped an 11-1 run (15-14).
Maccabi still had the edge after 10 minutes thanks to David Logan’s points (21-19) and the lead would exchange hands time and again in the second period after Kelly put Hapoel back in front (28-27).
However, the yellow-andblue would blow the game open with a late 10-0 run, with Hickman’s three-point play making it 46-35.
Maccabi took a nine-point cushion (50-41) into the break and the game was all but decided three-and-a-half minutes into the second half.
Smith’s old fashioned threepoint move capped a 9-0 surge, opening a 16 point (59- 43) gap from which Hapoel never threatened to come back.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Jerusalem moved back to .500 on Sunday, beating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 86-81 on the road.
After losing at home to Ironi Ashkelon last week, Jerusalem (4-4) continued its erratic ways, defeating a strong Rishon team thanks to Josh Duncan’s late heroics.
Duncan scored 11 of his team’s final 12 points to push Hapoel over the finishing line, ending the game with 26 points.
Jacob Pullen added 17 points and nine assists for Jerusalem, with Craig Smith and Raviv Limonad scoring 13 points each.
Willie Warren had 20 points for Rishon, which fell to 4-3.
Also Sunday, Ashkelon and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil claimed their second straight wins after only getting off the mark last week.
Ashkelon surprised Hapoel Holon 93-88 on the road behind new signing Marque Perry’s 21 points, with Marcus Dove contributing 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Lawrence Hill had 17 points for Holon, which lost for the fourth consecutive time, falling to 3-5.
Gilboa beat Maccabi Ashdod 90-70, effectively clinching the win by outscoring its opponent 24-12 in the third frame to take a 15-point gap (68-53) into the final 10 minutes.
Jamar Smith had 22 points for Gilboa (2-6), with Diamon Simpson leading Ashdod (1- 6) with 16 points and 11 boards.
On Monday, Hapoel Eilat welcomes Barak Netanya and Bnei Herzliya visits Maccabi Haifa.