Local Hoops: Mac TA returns from Italy and heads to practice

The loss to Armani Jeans Milano was Maccabi's worst since it joined the modern Euroleague in 2001.

Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel on Saturday night - 30 hours later than expected - after a snow storm in Italy cancelled the team's original flight on Friday morning. The extra time away gave Tel Aviv the chance to dwell on its embarrassing 94-71 defeat to Armani Jeans Milano in the Euroleague on Thursday night. The loss was Maccabi's worst since it joined the modern Euroleague in 2001. Milano began the game with a 12-2 run from which Maccabi never managed to recover. "We played a bad game. I'm disappointed with our poor start. They were motivated after changing their coach and it showed," Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said after the game. "We came back in the third quarter but then we played bad defense, allowing easy baskets. We also had foul problems, but it's not an excuse. I don't like the way we lost. We have to be more focused in the crucial minutes." Maccabi was without key player Nikola Vujcic, who didn't travel with the team because of illness. Despite his absence, Gershon wouldn't place all the blame for the defeat on one player. "Missing a player is no excuse for the way we lost and especially for the margin in which we got beaten by. I don't like to use excuses when we lose." Tel Aviv remains top of Group B with the same record as Turkey's Efes Pilsen (8-4). The yellow-and-blue have two more games remaining in the regular season - a trip next week to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and then at home against Winterthur Barcelona. The only player who saved a little of the European champions pride was Anthony Parker who scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "They played a great game, shooting well, and surprised us with a great start," he said. "Every time we came back... to eight or nine points... they found a way to push backs." Maccabi drove straight from the airport to Hadar Yosef to hold a training session ahead of its game on Sunday night against Maccabi Givat Shmuel. The champs will look to regain their form of recent weeks against the BSL's last place team. Hapoel Tel Aviv 80, Ironi Ramat Gan 66 Matchday 12 got underway on Saturday night as Hapoel Tel Aviv ended a three-game losing streak at Ramat Gan's expense. The win was Hapoel's first ever at its new home, Nokia Arena. Hapoel improved to 4-4, while Ramat Gan dropped to 5-6. League-leading scorer Marcus Hatten led the way with 25 points and Rodger Farrington added 20 points and nine rebounds. Tunji Awojobi has 22 points in defeat. Hapoel raced out to a 17-9 lead after six minutes, but Ramat Gan stayed close and cut the deficit to just four points at the end of the period. The hosts finally broke away in the second, as a Gili Mossinson three-pointer two minutes from the end of the half gave Hapoel a 14-point lead. Despite only scoring nine points in the third period, Tel Aviv maintained its lead. Ramat Gan couldn't get any closer to Tel Aviv and a Erez Katz lay-up five minutes to the end of the game gave Hapoel a 70-54 lead. Also on Sunday night Elitzur Ashkelon (4-6) hosts Hapoel Jerusalem (8-2). Ashkelon will hope for an improved performance from last week's loss at home against Ramat Hasharon, while Jerusalem will want to solidify second place in the table with an away win. Hapoel, which lost its season opener at home to Ashkelon 74-72, will also make sure it shows harmony among its players after last week's on court scuffle between Horace Jenkins and Meir Tapiro. Surprising Maccabi Rishon (7-3) entertains a Ramat Hasharon (3-7) side, which has failed to impress so far this season. Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan (5-5), still be missing star forward Lior Eliyahu, hosts Bnei Hasharon (3-7) at Kfar Blum. Eliyahu returned to training last week earlier than expected after breaking his hand, but is still lacking match fitness. Bnei Hasharon is fighting relegation and will be desperate to get an away win.