Local Hoops: Maccabi TA strengthens hold on 1st place

Hapoel J'lem thrashed 119-86 at Nokia Arena ending Hapoel's 13-game winning streak.

maccabi tel aviv 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
maccabi tel aviv 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite going through a poor season by its standards, Maccabi Tel Aviv proved Thursday night that it's still the team to beat in the BSL. The perennial champion thrashed Hapoel Jerusalem 119-86 at Nokia Arena, recording its 18th victory of the league campaign and ending Hapoel's 13-game winning streak. The convincing win is a huge morale boost for Tel Aviv going into the final month of the season. The club's 89-88 loss at the Malha Arena just four weeks ago raised concerns that Jerusalem might be overtaking Maccabi as Israel's premier team. However, Thursday night's rout dispelled any such thoughts and ensured Tel Aviv will still be entering the season-ending Final Four as the favorite. Hapoel's defense was powerless against Tel Aviv's outstanding offense, with the hosts scoring an amazing 17-of-27 from three-point range. Jerusalem, on the other hand, could only manage a poor 21 percent from beyond the arc (4-of-19) on their way to the heavy defeat. Will Bynum led Maccabi with 24 points, six assists and five rebounds, with Simas Jasaitis adding 20 points (six three-pointers). Yotam Halperin and Sharon Sasson each contributed 17 points, with the latter scoring five threes. Horace Jenkins was Jerusalem's highest scorer with 23 points on a night it will quickly want to forget, with Mario Austin adding 22 points. Jamie Arnold scored eight of Maccabi's first 12 points and the hosts led 12-6 midway through the first period. Tel Aviv continued to extend its lead as the quarter progressed and a three-point play by Bynum with two minutes remaining in the period gave Maccabi its first double-digit lead (20-10) of the game. Another three points by the American guard in the closing seconds of the quarter put Maccabi 14 points ahead, with a Jenkins basket cutting Hapoel's deficit to 28-16 after 10 minutes. A Jenkins three at the start of the second period brought Jerusalem within nine points of Maccabi, but that would be as close as Hapoel would come in the second quarter. Halperin's three five minutes into the period gave Tel Aviv a 45-29 lead and a 10-3 run to end the quarter widened the gap to a massive 20 points (56-36) at halftime. A Derrick Sharp triple to start the half ended any hope Jerusalem had of mounting a comeback. Four straight three pointers by Maccabi, two by Sasson and two by Jasaitis, gave Tel Aviv a 79-54 lead. After having a 24-point advantage (83-59) at the end of the third period, Sasson continued his fantastic shooting from beyond the arc, putting his side in a huge 30-point lead. Hapoel was helpless against a ruthless Maccabi, with Tel Aviv strolling through the remainder of the game on its way to victory. Also Thursday, third place Bnei Hasharon recorded its fifth consecutive BSL victory by defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 94-82. Bnei Hasharon, which dominated the game, was led by Lee Nailon, who scored 23 points, and by Jason Williams, who added 19 points and 13 rebounds.