Maccabi TA loses 1st home league game in over 3 yrs

A sensational fourth quarter gave the visiting Bnei Hasharon an 86-78 victory, their second straight over Maccabi.

Bnei Hasharon 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bnei Hasharon 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bnei Hasharon handed Maccabi Tel Aviv its first BSL home loss in more than three years on Sunday night at the Nokia Arena. A sensational fourth quarter gave the visitors an 86-78 victory, their second straight over Maccabi, which hadn't lost at home since the 105-97 defeat to Maccabi Rishon Lezion on November 29, 2004. Tel Aviv, which had won 55 consecutive home league games, was also undefeated in the BSL since coach Tzvika Sherf took charge, winning six straight games. Both streaks, however, came to a grinding halt on Sunday, despite Maccabi leading for most of the encounter. Tel Aviv was ahead by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, but a 26-13 fourth period by Bnei Hasharon secured its third win in four games and took the team within just one point of Maccabi in the league standings. Bnei Hasharon's Jason Williams was unstoppable all night, scoring 13 of 18 shots from the field on his way to 31 points. Meir Tapiro was his usual outstanding self with 18 points and seven assists, with Ndudi Ebi adding 12 points and 12 rebounds. "They never lose in this arena and it's a very good feeling to win here. This is a very important victory that can give us a big push forward," Tapiro said after the game. "Maccabi were on such a high after the win against Real Madrid on Thursday and that helped us," the visitors' coach Effi Birenboim said. "This victory is very important to us because it gives us confidence ahead of the remainder of the season. It's a wonderful feeling to win at the Nokia Arena." Yotam Halperin led Maccabi with 20 points, but the hosts struggled without Nikola Vujcic, who was rested, and will now need to pick themselves up ahead of Thursday's crucial Euroleague game against Olympiakos. "We weren't composed tonight, especially in the fourth period," Sherf said after the game. "We made mistakes on defense and on offense. Too many players didn't make the switch after the Real win and sometimes such a high is followed by a fall." Also Sunday, Hapoel Holon, which plays Maccabi next week, won for the sixth time in seven games, defeating Ironi Ashkelon 90-74 behind Chester Simmons's 27 points. Ironi Ramat Gan won for the sixth time in eight games on Sunday, beating Hapoel Galil Elyon 100-92, with Brian Tolbert scoring 22 points. Maccabi Rishon Lezion defeated Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 100-93 on the road on Sunday, recording an important win in its battle against relegation. On Monday, Ironi Nahariya hosts Hapoel Jerusalem in the final game of the week. In Tel Aviv, Maccabi opened an early eight-point lead (21-13) thanks to a Halperin basket and was ahead 25-19 after 10 minutes. The hosts continued to increase their lead at the start of the second period, with Will Bynum's two-points opening the team's first double-digit margin of the night (40-30). Bnei Hasharon, however, came right back and Ebi's hook shot brought the side within two-points with two minutes to play in the first half. Alex Garcia took advantage of the visitors' lack of concentration in the final seconds of the second quarter and scored five quick points to extend the hosts' gap to seven points at the break (46-39). David Bluthenthal's three-pointer in the third period gave Maccabi its biggest lead of the encounter (54-41), but Bnei Hasharon scored the final six points of the quarter to cut the gap to 65-60 with 10 minutes to play. The visitors opened the final period with a 7-0 run, which was capped by a Rod Grizzard three, and Tel Aviv just couldn't keep pace. A Grizzard dunk gave the team a 71-67 lead and Bnei Hasharon pulled further and further ahead as the game drew to a close on its way to a famous victory.