Local hoops: Maccabi Tel Aviv stays perfect in BSL
Maccabi Tel Aviv gained a small measure of revenge over Bnei Hasharon on Sunday night, defeating the second-place club 94-92.
By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv gained a small measure of revenge over Bnei Hasharon on Sunday night, defeating the second-place club 94-92 in their BSL game in Herzliya.
Bnei Hasharon shocked Maccabi in the State Cup semifinal three weeks ago, ending Tel Aviv's nine-year reign as cup holder, and wasn't far from stunning the perennial league champion once more in Matchday 12.
The hosts were only trailing Maccabi by a single point with 30 seconds remaining, after closing a 17-point deficit in the last 12 minutes. However, a clutch Nikola Vujcic (25 points, seven rebounds) three-pointer with nine seconds to go denied Bnei Hasharon a memorable comeback and secured the visitors' perfect record in the BSL this season.
"We were the better team today and we led from the beginning of the game," Maccabi coach Neven Spahija said. "It's important that we won a game in which we didn't play that well."
The hosts were missing coach Effi Birenboim because he is mourning the loss of his father.
Lior Eliyahu (21 points) scored 11 of Maccabi's first 15 points and gave his club a 15-8 lead midway through the first period.
Bnei Hasharon remained close to Tel Aviv and Moshe Mizrahi's jumper in the closing stages of the quarter cut its deficit to one point (19-18) after 10 minutes.
Mizrahi's three-pointer at the start of the second period gave his team a 22-21 lead, but Tel Aviv regained the advantage immediately and Derrick Sharp's triple three minutes into the quarter gave his side a four-point cushion (30-26).
Bnei Hasharon remained within striking distance of Maccabi for most of the period. A Vujcic jumper to end the quarter gave the visitors a 52-44 lead at the interval.
Goran Jeretin's three-pointer 20 seconds into the second half was a sign of the things to come as Maccabi went on a 14-6 run in the first four minutes of the third period. The hosts failed to make any impression on Tel Aviv's advantage and Maccabi took a 76-61 lead into the last 10 minutes.
A 10-2 Bnei Hasharon run to begin the fourth period brought the hosts back into contention, and they eventually closed to within five points thanks to Cookie Belcher's (18 points) basket off an offensive rebound. Vujcic's jumper midway through the quarter renewed Maccabi's double-digit lead (84-74), but Bnei Hasharon continued to fight until the dying moments of the game.
Lee Nailon's (22 points, five rebounds) basket with 30 seconds remaining cut Bnei Hasharon's deficit to a single point (89-88), but Vujcic's three-pointer a meter behind the arc made sure Maccabi Tel Aviv wouldn't lose to Bnei Hasharon for a second time this season.
Also Sunday, Ironi Nahariya lost 95-90 to Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan in overtime, its fifth defeat in its last six games. Galil, on the other hand, has now won three of its last four games and only trails its northern rival by a single point in the standings. Kenny Adeleke was one of six Hapoel players who scored in double figures, contributing 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Ironi Ramat Gan got a crucial away win in its fight against relegation, defeating fellow struggler Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 102-80.
Maccabi Givat Shmuel complicated the bottom of the standings even further by beating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 83-80. Sunday's results mean that every team in the bottom half of the standings faces a battle for its BSL life.
Hapoel Jerusalem's away game against Ironi Ashkelon was postponed to April 4 because of Jerusalem's ULEB Cup quarterfinal first leg on Tuesday night.
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