Local Hoops: Mac TA loses to Nahariya, but advances

Loses 84-80 in second leg of State Cup quarterfinal but wins on aggregate after winning first leg 86-72.

maccabi tel aviv 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
maccabi tel aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv lost to Ironi Nahariya 84-80 in the second leg of the State Cup quarterfinal Sunday night. But it advanced to the State Cup Final Four since it won the first leg 86-72. The Cup holder led by as many as 12 points after a convincing first half, but Nahariya made an impressive comeback. Nicola Vujcic minimized the damage with 16 points and 12 rebounds, powering Tel Aviv into the next stage. "It's very difficult to explain this," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said. "We played very well today, but something happened in the end. I will have to talk with the players and make sure we learn from the mistakes. But I'm glad we are in the State Cup Final Four." Bnei Hasharon lost to Afula Gilboa 92-81, but advanced on the after its 97-72 win in the first leg. Ironi Ramat Gan beat Hapoel Yokneam/Megido 94-68 to advance. Ironi Nahariya 84, Maccabi Tel Aviv 80 Nahariya came out strong and scored two quick baskets, but Maccabi retaliated with a 10-0 run thanks to some brilliant defensive play by Will Bynum and strong play by Lior Eliyahu in the paint. The yellow-and-blue led 20-17 at end of first quarter. Spahija inserted Noel Felix in the second quarter, which helped the team stabilize its defense. The physical center dominated the boards and scored 13 first-half points to help Tel Aviv to a comfortable 48-36 lead. Just when it seemed that the hosts had conceded the game, Maccabi started giving away cheap baskets and enabled Nahariya to cut the lead. Vedren Vokosic made a crucial three-pointer to make it 58-62 going into the final period, putting the pressure on the visitors. Nahariya completed the comeback moments later, when Raviv Limonad made a long shot to give the hosts a 65-63 lead. Juan Mendez scored five straight points to give his team an 80-71 advantage, but Maccabi held on to lose only 80-84. Mendez finished with a game-high 25 points and also collected 7 rebounds for the hosts. Limonad scored 17 important points, and Ido Kozikaro added 15 points and 5 rebounds. Afula Gilboa 92, Bnei Hasharon 81 Afula had to win the game by 26 points to advance, but barely managed to humble Bnei Hasharon after an intense and physical game. The victory was secured by a 23-point effort by Goni Izraeli, who also added 7 assists. Bnei Hasharon kept the host's lead in check, with Lee Nailon using his trademark mid-range jumper and punishing the Afula defense repeatedly. The former New Orleans Hornets forward finished the game with 22 points and 4 rebounds. Ironi Ramat Gan 94, Hapoel Yokneam/Megido 68 Ramat Gan played an aggressive game, knowing that a win was needed following the 85-89 loss in the first leg. John Allen was the man of the match, as he dominated and enabled the hosts to win easily. Allen had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 7 steals. Jay Lewis scored 21 points.