Local hoops: Maccabi TA breathes easy against Givat Shmuel

Ironi Ramat Gan edges out Hapoel Galil Elyon

mac TA 88 (photo credit: )
mac TA 88
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Tel Aviv finally produced a convincing win in the BSL. The defending champion had a tough first half against Givat Shmuel on Sunday night but came out strong in the second half to register a comfortable 98-75 victory. "A much better defensive performance," Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Neven Spahija said. "It's hard to deal with Israeli teams because of their small lineups, but Sharon Shason did a good job in the second half. "We had a chance to use our bench today and I'm glad all our players got playing time ahead of our next Euroleague game." A brilliant, 28-point effort by Jai Lewis gave Ironi Ramat Gan a tight 95-93 win over Oded Katash's Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan. Ironi Ashkelon fell prey to a solid team effort by Hapoel Afula/Gilboa, losing out 90-83. A Jeff Greer buzzer-beater gave Ironi Nahariya a dramatic 74-71 away victory against Maccabi Rishon Lezion. At Or Yehuda, Spahija continued to toy with his rotation and inserted Yotam Halperin into his starting lineup. Givat Shmuel made an impressive 10-2 run in the opening minutes, but the yellow-and-blue soon took control of the game en route to a 21-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. Former Maccabi center Deon Thomas did a good defensive job on Nicola Vujcic, forcing him to take tough shots and using his athletic superiority to prevail under the boards. Bo Davis found his groove in the dying minutes of the first half, burying two consecutive three-pointers and narrowing the deficit to 41-38. Vujcic got his offensive game going in the second half, punishing Givat Shmuel with clever percentage play and finding open teammates. The reigning league champion cruised for the remainder of the game thanks to its efficient half-court defense, which suffocated Givat Shmuel for most of the last quarter. Reserve swingman Shason nailed down three crucial three-pointers for Tel Aviv and finished the game with 19 points and five rebounds. Vujcic was nearly unstoppable in the second half and added a game-high 23 points. Halperin, Tal Burstein and Lior Eliyahu finished with 10 points each. Ironi Ramat Gan 95, Hapoel Galil Elyon 93 At Kfar Blum, Ironi Ramat Gan raced to a 16-6 lead after making some uncontested mid-range jumpers. Oded Katash's Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan had difficulty scoring against Ramat Gan's zone defense and fell behind 31-22 at the end of the first quarter. Ramat Gan kept up the pressure in the second quarter, as Lewis punished Hapoel by repeatedly taking the ball to the hoop and scoring on easy layups. The State Cup semi-finalists forced numerous Galil errors and led 54-49 at the break. Galil turned the tide in a dramatic third quarter, thanks to some brilliant moves by sharpshooter Chester Simmons. The Ramat Gan defense was unable to contain the athletic guard, who finished with 21 points and the stage was set for a dramatic final period. Former Galil star Moran Roth put Ramat Gan ahead with three consecutive free throws. Both teams deliberately committed fouls in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, and Roth buried another two free throws to give Ramat Gan the dramatic win.