Local Hoops: Downtrodden Maccabi returns to BSL

Tel Aviv needs a confidence-boosting win after losing heavily at Olympiacos on Thursday.

dror hagag halperin maccabi tel aviv 248 (photo credit: AP)
dror hagag halperin maccabi tel aviv 248
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will have an ideal opportunity to return to winning ways and rebound from Thursday's thrashing at Olympiacos when it visits newly-promoted Ironi Kiryat Ata in the BSL on Sunday. Despite playing without star playmaker Carlos Arryo, who was sidelined with back pain, Tel Aviv got off to a flying start on Thursday, leading at one stage by as many as 10 points (23-13). Maccabi's lead was shortlived, however, with Olympiacos seizing control of the encounter with a 17-5 second quarter and eventually cruising to an 84-65 victory. Marcus Brown, who scored just seven points in Greece, perhaps summed up Thursday's game best: "They kicked our ass," the Maccabi guard said on Friday upon the team's arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport. "It seemed like we were playing together for the first time. We didn't handle the pressure well." Omri Casspi scored 16 points for Maccabi, with Esteban Batista the team's only other player in double figures, adding 10 points. The team also hurt itself by turning the ball over 23 times. Olympiacos, which shot 11-of-21 from beyond the arc, got 21 points from Lynn Greer, with Panagiotis Vasilopoulos and Nikola Vujcic scoring 14 points each. Israeli Yotam Halperin scored just two points for the host Greeks. "This game was special for me and great for Olympiacos," said Vujcic, who was facing Maccabi in an official game for the first time since he left the team for Athens in the summer after six seasons in Tel Aviv. "Maccabi started the game strong, but we showed character, improved our defense and sailed to the victory." The differences between Maccabi's opponent on Sunday and Olympiacos can be illustrated by the fact that Vujcic's yearly salary is about double that of Kiryat Ata's entire budget. Kiryat Ata began the season with a surprising victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion, but has lost its last two games by more than 20 points and should be no match for a Maccabi team still perfect in the BSL this season (2-0). Hapoel Jerusalem, which hosts Ironi Ramat Gan on Sunday, was drawn on Saturday to face Arik Shiback's MyGuide Amsterdam, as well as Olympia Larissa of Greece and EWE Baskets Oldenburg of Germany, in Group E of the EuroChallenge regular season. Jerusalem was a top seed in Saturday's draw in Berlin and will fancy its chances of progressing in Europe's third tier competition, with the top two teams from each of the eight groups advancing to the last-16 group stage. Hapoel, which was demoted to the EuroChallenge after losing in the Eurocup qualifiers to Unics Kazan, will host Shiback and Amsterdam in its first game of the competition on November 26. Also Sunday in the BSL, Hapoel Holon visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Maccabi Givat Shmuel hosts Ironi Ashkelon. On Monday, Ironi Nahariya hosts Bnei Hasharon.