Maccabi TA finally wins in the BSL

Sherf's team storms past Afula/Gilboa 95-69 after losing four straight league games

Maccabi Tel Aviv players 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv players 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
After its worst month ever in the BSL, Maccabi Tel Aviv finally returned to winning ways on Wednesday night, thrashing Hapoel Afula/ Gilboa 95-69 at the Nokia Arena. Since its victory over Hapoel Jerusalem on April 13, Maccabi had lost four straight league games, the longest losing streak in the club's history. With the Israeli Final Four less than two weeks away, the real importance of Wednesday's win was in the confidence boost it gave the side after such a poor run of form. Maccabi, which visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion in its final game of the regular season next Tuesday, was truly terrible in its recent league games and desperately needed this easy victory to inject some self-belief into its players ahead of the final two weeks of the campaign. "After some poor games we played slightly better tonight," Maccabi coach Tzvika Sherf said after the game. "We now need to continue to prepare for the Final Four as we still have plenty of work to do. There are no excuses to our play in recent weeks and we must continue to improve on our play." Esteban Batista led Maccabi with 18 points and seven rebounds, with David Bluthenthal and Alex Garcia adding 16 and 13 points, respectively. Lamont Jones scored 18 points for Afula/Gilboa, which was officially relegated with the defeat. Jermaine Hall's basket three minutes into the encounter gave Afula/Gilboa its first lead of the night (6-5), but it wouldn't take the hosts long to seize control and race ahead. A 10-0 run, which was capped by Omri Casspi's three-point move, gave Maccabi an 18-10 lead and Tel Aviv was ahead 24-15 after 10 minutes. Batista's basket at the start of the second period opened a 32-17 advantage, but the visitors managed to come within nine points (37-28) soon after thanks to Jones's basket. That would prove to be as close as Hapoel would come, with Maccabi dominating the end of the first half. Afula/Gilboa was helpless against Tel Aviv's perimeter shooting and Bluthenthal's three to end the second period increased the gap to 52-35 at the break. There was no heroic comeback for Hapoel in the second half, with Maccabi only extending its lead as the game drew to a close on its way to an easy win. Jerusalem faces must-win game against Nahariya Ironi Nahariya can book its place in the Final Four on Thursday with a victory over Hapoel Jerusalem at Malha Arena. Nahariya has won five straight games since the arrival of coach Roni Bosani and thrashed top of the table Hapoel Holon by 21 points on Sunday. Nahariya won't, however, have it all its own way in Jerusalem as Hapoel needs to win to maintain its slim chance of sneaking into the season-ending tournament. Jerusalem's play has improved in recent weeks since the arrival of coach Ziv Erez, but the team will need to win its final two games of the regular season and for other results to go its way in the next week if it's to play in the Final Four for a third straight season. Ironi Ashkelon goes for its eighth win in nine games in Ra'anana on Thursday. Ashkelon visits Bnei Hasharon and has to win to have any chance of finishing the regular season among the top four. Also Thursday, Hapoel Holon hosts Hapoel Galil Elyon and Maccabi Rishon Lezion visits Ironi Ramat Gan. Gadi Kedar named Netherlands coach On Tuesday, Gadi Kedar joined Pini Gershon (Bulgaria), David Blatt (Russia) and Muli Katzurin (Poland) in the exclusive club of Israeli coaches who guide foreign national teams. Kedar, who has been in charge of the youth program at Hapoel Jerusalem in the last five years, was announced as the Netherlands national team coach, replacing Marco van den Berg. The Dutch will play against Iceland, Denmark, Austria and Montenegro in EuroBasket B games this year.