Maccabi TA toughs out win at Jerusalem

Yellow-and-blue fight back to claim 79-71 victory in Malha with late run.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's DEVIN SMITH, January 6, 2013 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's DEVIN SMITH, January 6, 2013 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv was forced to dig deep to claim a confidence-boosting 79-71 BSL win against Hapoel Jerusalem at Malha Arena on Sunday night.
Jerusalem led for much of the game, but a 13-3 Tel Aviv run to end the encounter gave the yellow-and-blue its ninth straight league win to improve to 11-1 on the season.
“It wasn’t easy to come back from the cruel defeat to Caja on Thursday,” said delighted Maccabi coach David Blatt after seeing his team rebound from the dramatic 71-70 Euroleague loss to Vitoria ahead of this week’s crucial continental showdown against Fenerbahce Ulker.
“It is never easy to come to Jerusalem and we showed a lot of maturity tonight. Only a team with real character can do what we did in the fourth quarter.”
Hapoel, which held a nine-point lead late in the third quarter, dropped back to .500, falling to 6-6, but coach Sharon Drucker was still pleased with his side’s fighting spirit.
“We lost the game in the third period,” said Drucker, with Maccabi’s David Logan scoring three consecutive three-pointers to cut Hapoel’s lead to a single point (60-59) ahead of the final frame.
“Maccabi knew what to do in the crucial moments. It is a shame we didn’t win the game, but I don’t have a single bad word to say about my players.”
Logan led Maccabi with 13 points, while Devin Smith added 12 points and 10 rebounds, with Lior Eliyahu also scoring 12.
Craig Smith had 19 points for Jerusalem, with Josh Duncan contributing 17 points.
Roni Bosani’s debut as Maccabi Rishon Lezion coach went according to plan on Sunday, with Rishon beating Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 69-59.
A Nitzan Hanochi threepointer capped a 13-2 Rishon run to start the game and the hosts never lost control.
Julian Wright had 15 points and nine boards for the winners, who had lost six of eight games under previous coach Effi Birenboim. Rakim Sanders scored 15 for Gilboa, which dropped to 3-9 with its third defeat in four games.
“Gilboa never gave up, but momentum was on our side in the closing stages,” said Bosani. “We did an excellent job defensively, but we have plenty else to improve.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s struggles continued on Sunday, with the Reds suffering their fifth defeat in six contests, losing 94-88 at Bnei Herzliya.
Herzliya outscored Hapoel 30-20 in the first period and remained in the lead until the final buzzer.
Romel Beck led Herzliya with 30 points, with Curtis Kelly scoring 30 for Tel Aviv.
Also Sunday, Hapoel Eilat snapped its first losing streak of the season at two defeats, beating Ironi Ashkelon 103- 85 on the road.
Ashkelon had won five of its previous six games, but a 22-4 Eilat run in the second quarter effectively decided the contest.
Eli Holman had 27 points and 11 boards for Eilat, with Scotty Hopson scoring 20 and Afik Nissim and Jerome Tillman adding 19 points each.
Marcus Dove led Ashkelon with 28 points and nine rebounds.
On Monday, Hapoel Holon hosts Maccabi Haifa and Barak Netanya goes to Maccabi Ashdod.