Local Hoops: Maccabi aims to continue impressive form

Maccabi will have to come down to earth quickly as it faces Ironi Ashkelon in the BSL at the Nokia Arena on Sunday.

maccabi derrick sharp (photo credit: AP)
maccabi derrick sharp
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel on Friday afternoon in a euphoric mood after its incredible overtime victory at Real Madrid on Thursday night. Tel Aviv's victory puts its fate back in its own hands and the team can guarantee itself home court advantage in the best-of-three quarterfinal playoff with a win over Zalgiris Kaunas in its final group game next week at the Nokia Arena. Maccabi, which will advance to the last eight from second position even if it loses to Kaunas, came back from a third quarter 13-point deficit in Madrid, forcing overtime with five seconds to play in regulation, thanks to a Yotam Halperin three-pointer. The overtime was just as tight as the first 40 minutes of the encounter, but accurate free throw shooting by Maccabi secured a crucial 103-100 win. "I told everyone that we were going to beat Real and that wasn't an easy thing to say after the tough week we had," Maccabi coach Tzvika Sherf said. "The players did a marvelous job and played amazingly for 45 minutes. We want to secure first place in the group next week and we're not going to do our opponents any more favors." Terence Morris was his usual outstanding self on Thursday, scoring 23 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Halperin and Nikola Vujcic each added 16 points, with Esteban Batista scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds. "It was a tough game, very intense until the final seconds. I managed to play well all game long," Morris said. "We arrive to the last round of the Top 16 with a big chance to finish first. I am happy with the game I had, but the most important thing for me is helping the team as much as I can. We managed to beat Madrid, one of the best teams in Europe." Derrick Sharp, who crucially scored from the free throw line time and again in overtime, said: "It was a great game decided with big shots at the end. It was an important win for us. We were mentally strong, played tough and I must say that this is one of the best games I have ever played in." Maccabi will have to come down to earth quickly as it faces Ironi Ashkelon in the BSL at the Nokia Arena on Sunday. Tel Aviv survived a late scare to defeat Hapoel Holon last week and will be hoping for an easy win against Ashkelon ahead of Thursday's big game against Kaunas. Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Ironi Ramat Gan on Sunday in a game with serious Final Four implications. The teams are tied for third position on 25 points and Hapoel will be keen to avoid a second defeat of the season to Ramat Gan. Also Sunday, Bnei Hasharon hosts Ironi Nahariya and the bottom two face-off in Afula with Hapoel Afula/Gilboa playing Hapoel Galil Elyon. On Monday, Hapoel Holon hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion.