Mac TA beaten again in BSL; Haifa holds off J’lem

Yellow-and-blue suffers back-to-back losses in local league for first time in nearly five years.

Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv suffered consecutive BSL defeats for the first time in almost five years on Sunday, losing 76-70 to Barak Netanya at Zisman Arena in Ramat Gan.
Maccabi, which was hosting the game away from Nokia Arena due to a prearranged conference, reignited its Euroleague Top 16 campaign with its third straight continental win at Fenerbahce Ulker on Thursday.
However, for a second straight week it failed to recover from its European exertions in time for local league action, losing to a struggling Netanya side a week after falling to a floundering Hapoel Tel Aviv.
“There’s a stage in the season when I need to make a decision where to invest my resources,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt, who rested center Shawn James. “If this costs us here and there, and it has cost us in the past two weeks, we will just have to live with it, as painful as it may be.”
Maccabi hosts Khimki Moscow at Nokia on Thursday night in another Euroleague encounter it can’t afford to lose.
Everything seemed to be going according to the script when Maccabi’s Darko Planinic opened an eightpoint gap (15-7) in the first quarter.
However, a 17-2 run by Netanya turned the game on its head (24-17), with Maccabi scoring just 12 points in the second period and entering the halftime break down by 12 points (41-29).
Netanya maintained a double- digit margin throughout the third frame, but it seemed to be only a matter of time until Tel Aviv would complete a comeback when Ricky Hickman capped a 7-0 run to bring the yellow-andblue within four points (61- 57) with just under six minutes to play.
However, Netanya would hold on for an important win after losing six of its previous eight games.
Marco Killingsworth had 19 points and eight rebounds for Netanya, with Ramel Bradley and Deron Washington scoring 14 points each for Danny Franco’s side, which improved to 10-10.
“Maccabi is an amazing team and we see that almost every Thursday and obviously its focus is currently elsewhere,” said Franco. “However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve credit for this win.”
Hickman had 14 points for Maccabi, which fell to 17-3 on the season.
Maccabi Haifa (13-7) took an important step towards wrapping up the runners-up position at the end of the regular season on Sunday, beating Hapoel Jerusalem 91-84 at Romema Arena to leapfrog into second place ahead of Hapoel Eilat (12-8), which lost 98-87 at Maccabi Ashdod.
Despite playing without Craig Smith, who is set to be cut from the roster this week after criticizing coach Sharon Drucker in the media, Jerusalem led 51-48 at the break and was still in the game with 10 minutes to play (66-66).
However, an 11-2 surge to start the fourth quarter gave Haifa a lead it wouldn’t relinquish on the way to its fourth straight win.
Pat Calathes had 26 points and 12 boards for Haifa, with Donta Smith scoring 18.
Josh Duncan led Jerusalem with 24 points and eight rebounds.
In Ashdod, the hosts outscored Eilat 34-21 in the second quarter and never looked back.
Diamon Simpson had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Ashdod, with Austin Freeman netting 21 points.
Larry O’Bannon led Eilat with 20 points.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion edged Ironi Ashkelon 98-96 thanks to Adrian Uter’s basket with nine seconds left.
Uter led Rishon with 24 points, while Marque Perry scored 23 points for Ashkelon, which lost its ninth straight game.
On Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv will look to build on last week’s stunning victory in the derby when it visits Hapoel Holon, while second-to-last Hapoel Gilboa/Galil hosts Bnei Herzliya.