Mac Rishon ends yellow-and-blue’s streak

Mac TA had won 22 straight matchups against Israeli clubs before falling 81-64.

JULIAN WRIGHT 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv suffered its first defeat to an Israeli team in 10 months on Sunday night, dropping to a humbling 81-64 loss to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in BSL action at Nokia Arena.
The yellow-and-blue had won 22 straight games in league and State Cup play since falling 78-74 to Maccabi Ashdod on January 29.
However, it found itself in an early hole against Rishon and never recovered against Effi Birenboim’s impressive side, which improved to 3-0.
Despite playing without injured point guard Lazeric Jones, Rishon hit the ground running, opening a double- digit gap by the end of the first quarter (24-14) and taking a 43-25 lead into the break.
It seemed inevitable that Tel Aviv would come back with a vengeance in the second half, but the gap never dropped below 11 points and the hosts lost for the first time in all competitions this season after beginning the Euroleague 3-0.
“We prepared well for this game and won despite losing Jones to injury yesterday,” said Birenboim.
“This is only the beginning of the road, but this is a very significant win for us, although we must remember that it is just a single win.”
Adrian Uter and Julian Wright had 22 points and nine rebounds each for Rishon, which also got 14 points from Willie Warren.
Nitzan Hanochi, standing in for Jones, contributed nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Shawn James led Maccabi with 19 points, with Yogev Ohayon the team’s only other player in double-figures, scoring 12 points.
“Rishon deserve every credit,” said Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, whose team hosts Prokom Gdynia in Euroleague action on Thursday.
“You have these days once every so often. We have no excuse or explanation.
“We just didn’t come to play from the start and Rishon made the most of it. It doesn’t happen to us much, but occasionally it does.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv recorded its second straight victory on Sunday night, defeating Ironi Ashkelon 78-70 thanks to the outstanding play of its Israeli players.
Hapoel claimed last week its first BSL win since returning to the top flight after six years and it made it two in a row on Sunday with a 21-2 fourth-quarter run inspired by its local players.
Ashkelon took a 61-54 margin into the fourth quarter and led by nine point (65-56) early in the frame.
However, Hapoel roared back, with Jonathan Skjoldebrand, Bar Timor and Matan Naor doing the heavy lifting on both ends of the floor to clinch the win.
Skjoldebrand had 19 points and eight rebounds, with Jeff Allen also scoring 19 and Naor netting 15.
“We fell for Ashkelon’s traps and we knew they would be tough to beat,” said Hapoel coach Erez Edelstein.
“But I’m pleased that we came through on defense when it mattered most.”
Marcus Moore had 20 points for Ashkelon, which fell to 0-3.
Maccabi Haifa dropped to its first defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 80-62 at Hapoel Eilat.
Eilat outscored Haifa 48-25 in the second and third quarters, rendering the final period all but meaningless.
Scotty Hopson had 19 points for Eilat, with Austin Freeman adding 16 points.
Donta Smith scored 15 for Haifa.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil remained winless on Sunday, falling to a 92-88 home loss to Hapoel Holon.
Gilboa held the lead for much of the game, but Holon came up with the goods when it mattered most to get the win.
Jerome Dyson led Holon with 27 points, with Frank Hassell contributing 22 points and 11 boards. Rakim Sanders had 25 points for the struggling Gilboa.
On Monday, Hapoel Jerusalem, which has opened the season 0-2 for the first time since 1997, visits the 2-0 Barak Netanya, while Maccabi Ashdod hosts Bnei Herzliya.