Local Hoops: Maccabi spanks Hapoel in grudge match

Maccabi gave Hapoel a 97-81 beating, closing the argument on which is the best team in the country, at least for now.

Maccabi Tel Aviv players 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv players 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
If Maccabi Tel Aviv was looking to get revenge on Hapoel Jerusalem for its drubbing in the capital last November, the team in yellow and blue proved its point in a big way at the Nokia Arena on Sunday night. Brushing away memories of Thursday's 20-point loss at Barcelona in the Euroleague, Maccabi gave Hapoel a 97-81 beating, closing the argument on which is the best team in the country, at least for now. The result will essentially make little or no difference at the end of the regular season when both teams will surely make it to the post-season Final Four tournament. But Jerusalem is now well behind Tel Aviv in bragging rights, even if the two biggest names in Israeli basketball are now tied at the top of the standings with 11-2 records. Effi Birenboim, who coached Maccabi the last time the two teams met, is but a distant memory, and the team put together by his successor Pini Gershon is a different class in terms of confidence and, most importantly, quality. "I would have felt very bad had we won by less than 14 points," a surprisingly dissatisfied Gershon said. "I'm pleased but we should have won by a bigger margin." In other BSL action on Sunday, Ironi Ramat Gan beat Hapoel Holon at home, Ironi Ashkelon topped Ironi Nahariya in overtime and Maccabi Givat Shmuel beat Ironi Kiryat Ata. In Spain last week, Maccabi had been criticized for its poor offensive performance. But this time around, against what had been considered the strongest team in Israel, Tel Aviv was unstoppable. Former NBA player Carlos Arroyo got a double-double, leading all scorers with 24 points in 37 minutes and10 assists. "It's a sweet win," Arroyo said. "We've been waiting to play this game for a long time. We know they're a great team and we executed at the right time and came out with the victory." Marcus Brown also returned to form, coming off the bench to score 16 points for the hosts, including seven three-pointers. D'or Fischer also contributed 20 points for Maccabi For Jerusalem, Moran Rot and Timmy Bowers both scored 20 points, but their efforts were not enough, in a large part due to the poor efforts of their bench. Of the substitutes, only Yuval Naimi made any real impact, scoring nine points. Hapoel coach Guy Goodes was obviously upset with the result. "We started well, but Maccabi was very composed," Goodes said. "Nevertheless, I think this is the best preparation game we could have gotten ahead of the important State Cup games next week." Also Sunday, Ironi Ashkelon edged Ironi Nahariya 91-87 after overtime. Nahariya had won three straight games entering the encounter, and Ashkelon had lost its last four, but the hosts had the upper hand on Sunday and claimed the important victory. After several poor games, Steve Burtt was back to his best, leading Ashkelon with 27 points. Rashon Turner added 14 points and 10 rebounds, with Louis Truscott contributing 11 points and 15 rebounds. Aaron McGhee had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Nahariya, with Ron Lewis adding 21 points. Maccabi Givat Shmuel handed Ironi Kiryat Ata its 12th straight loss on Sunday, winning 93-81 at home. Greg Grays scored 25 points for Givat Shmuel, with Aaron Nixon scoring 20 points for the losers. Carmelo Lee helped Ironi Ramat Gan end its four game losing streak on Sunday, scoring 30 points in the 85-70 win over Hapoel Holon. On Monday Bnei Hasharon hosts Hapoel Galil Elyon/Gilboa.