Local Hoops: Maccabi routs Hapoel in Tel Aviv derby

Nikola Vujcic was responsible for more than a third of the reigning league champions' points.

bball standings 298 (photo credit: Jpost sports)
bball standings 298
(photo credit: Jpost sports)
Hapoel Tel Aviv had no answer for Nikola Vujcic Monday night. The Maccabi Tel Aviv center was responsible for more than a third of the reigning league champions' points in a 107-83 victory Monday night at Nokia Arena. The reds, who were officially the home team in the first Tel Aviv derby of the BSL season, kept it close for one half, but Maccabi crushed any Hapoel hopes for an upset with a 68-point second. Vujcic stepped up for the yellow-and-blue, scoring 36 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists. The Croatian center was dominant under the baskets and the reds were helpless against him. After finishing as runner-up last season, Hapoel will need to come to terms with being among the league's strugglers after losing three of its first four BSL games of the 2005/06 season. The reds may comfort themselves with finding a true big man in Ernest Brown. The 2.13-meter center, who was playing in his first BSL game for Hapoel, was a constant nuisance for Maccabi on defense and offense. Brown scored 20 points and gave Hapoel the mass in the paint it has been searching for since the beginning of the season. Maccabi began the game with an 8-0 run and was at one point 11 points ahead in the first quarter. Hapoel recovered from its early confusion and began to eat away at Maccabi's lead, ending the quarter five points down. The bad blood between the city rivals was fueled by what happened with 13 seconds left in the first period. Maccabi forward Jamie Arnold, who was playing in place of the injured Maceo Baston, elbowed Gili Mossinson in the face. Arnold was charged with a flagrant foul and was fortunate not to be ejected. "I was guarding Arnold and he obviously didn't feel very good so he exploded," Mossinson said after the game. "Arnold got angry. He knows he has to keep his composure and he understands he was wrong," remarked Maccabi captain Derrick Sharp about the incident. Hapoel maintained its good form in the second quarter and went ahead after a 19-5 run, but Maccabi responded and the first half ended in a 39-39 tie. Maccabi started the second half eager to show the true difference in quality between the two teams. The yellows' offense provided a 31-point third quarter on the way to a 15-point lead heading in to the final period. Maccabi kept up the pressure, scoring at will, and fell further back.