Local Basketball: Katash triumphs on return to Maccabi

Mac Tel Aviv loses to Galil Elyon at Nokia Arena four days after Final Four loss to CSKA.

katash 248 88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
katash 248 88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Four months after being pushed out of Maccabi Tel Aviv for being a failure, Oded Katash recorded the sweetest of victories at the Nokia Arena on Thursday night. Katash's Hapoel Galil Elyon defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 77-72, handing the perennial champion its third straight league loss and fourth defeat in five games. Once more in the BSL, Maccabi was in complete disarray on both ends of the court and with just three weeks to go to the Israeli Final Four, Tzvika Sherf's team has plenty of work to do if it's to claim a 37th league title in 38 years. "This is a bonus for us. We didn't expect to win here," Katash told Sport5. "To beat Maccabi is very emotional. We executed our game plan and everybody played great and gave their all." Jai Lewis led Galil, scoring 19 points, with Aaron Nixon adding 18 points. Lior Eliyahu scored 17 points for the hosts, with Omri Casspi the team's only other player in double-figures, scoring 12 points. A victory on Thursday would have been especially important for Sherf. In a documentary about Katash screened on Channel 10 last week the Galil coach infuriated Sherf and Maccabi by saying that "to claim that Tzvika Sherf has no idea in coaching is a compliment." Katash apologized for his comments after Thursday's game. "I told Sherf I was sorry and I apologize to him tonight again. I felt very bad about what I said and I don't really think that. I've learnt my lesson," Katash said. Or Eitan scored the first points of the night and gave Galil the lead, but it wouldn't be long before the hosts took control. A Casspi basket from a Nikola Vujcic assist opened a 12-8 lead and Eliyahu, who scored eight points in the first period, extended the margin to six points (17-11) with a dunk six minutes into the encounter. Maccabi took a 24-20 advantage into the second quarter, but soon after was ahead by just one point following Mike Campbell's easy two (27-26). Tel Aviv was sloppy on both defense and offense in the second period and Lewis's three-point move gave the visitors a 35-34 advantage. Casspi would ensure, however, that the hosts weren't behind at the break, hitting a three-pointer to tie the score at 40-40. Two straight long-distance threes by Nixon gave Galil a surprise six point lead (46-40) and Gili Mosinzon's lay-up midway through the third period opened a 52-44 advantage. Two successful Jawad Williams free throws increased the gap to double-digits (54-44), stunning the Nokia Arena crowd. Sherf looked helpless on the bench, with his team gifting Galil easy points, turning over the ball time and again. The visitors extended the margin to as many as 11 points, but an 8-0 Tel Aviv run, which was capped by Will Bynum, brought the team to within one possession once more (56-53). The perennial champion seemed to be on course to complete its comeback, but Nixon's desperation three and Mosinzon's basket in the paint put Hapoel comfortably ahead once again (63-54). An Eliyahu dunk cut the deficit slightly at the end of the third quarter (63-56) and two more points from the Israeli forward at the start of the final period brought Maccabi yet closer (64-58). Despite falling nine points behind once more after a Lewis triple, Maccabi would soon be back within touching distance thanks to four straight Vonteego Cummings points (69-66). A Bynum three with two-and-a-half minutes to play brought the team within two points (73-71), but that would prove to be as close as Tel Aviv would come and Galil held on for the massive victory.