Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv concluded the second round of the Israeli Winner League on a sour taste after a 79:93 road defeat to Hapoel Be'er Sheva. Despite the loss, the Israeli champions finished the second round in first place with a 19:5 record as they know that the crucial part of the season is ahead of them. The Yellow & Blue were missing their usual firepower after resting Scottie Wilbekin, Ante Zizic, Othello Hunter before the next stage of the domestic season.
Chris Jones led the Maccabi scorers with 19 points, Angelo Caloiaro contributed 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Dragan Bender finished the evening with 14 points. Giannis Sfairopoulos's squad will begin the preparations for the top division, which will start on Tuesday against Hapoel Haifa at Menora Mivtachim Arena.
The visitors opened with Chris Jones, Yovel Zoosman, Elijah Bryant, Angelo Caloiaro, and Dragan Bender, while Amir Bell, Spencer Weisz, Caleb Agada, Eric Griffin, and Eric Thompson started for the Reds.
The Yellow & Blue started the game well as Zoosman dished multiple assists to Bender inside, including an alley-oop that the Croatian big man slammed it in. Bender (7 points) and Jones, who concluded the 11:2 stretch with a and one layup, opened an 8 point margin, 17:9, midway through the quarter.
Agada shifted the momentum and grabbed the advantage after scoring 7 of the Southern's 10 unanswered points, leading to a Giannis Sfairopoulos timeout, 17:19. T.J Cline came off the bench and laid in back-to-back buckets, but Agada had the final say in the quarter, knocking down his 14th point with a shot from behind the arc, 22:24.
Be'er Sheva stopped the Yellow & Blue scoreless in the first minutes of the second quarter as Griffin took advantage to increase the edge to double digits after drilling two straight triples, 22:32.
Maccabi increased their intensity on the defensive end as Jones took control, scoring 5 points and dishing a beautiful assist to a Bender dunk as part of a 9:0 run which diminished the hosts' margin down to 1. Travis Warech laid in two and hit a three giving Rami Hadar's group a 5 point lead heading into the half, 35:41.
Zoosman drilled back-to-back three-pointers to open the second half, Weisz and Agada responded on the other end, but Bender hooked a shot over Griffin and completed a three-point play, 44:47. The hosts lead ramped up to 9, Maccabi responded with Bryant and Caloiaro, who stayed perfect from the free-throw line, keeping the team within striking distance.
Caloiaro ignited an 11:1 stretch dishing multiple assists to Cline and Oz Blayzer as Tyler Dorsey completed the comeback with a shot from behind the arc that gave the Yellow & Blue a 63:59 advantage. Weisz and Agada scored 4 straight points to tie the contest at 63 after three quarters.
The start of the fourth was in Be'er Sheva's control as Griffin and Agada drilled three-pointers, giving the Reds an early 8 point edge. Maccabi answered as Cloiaro stopped the run with a layup, Jones hit a corner triple, and Bender blocked Bell narrowing the margin to just 1, 70:71.
Agada, with a masterful night, put the southern squad on his back, scoring 12 straight points from all cylinders and giving his team a double-digit advantage with 4 minutes left on the game clock, 72:83. Jones and Caloiaro attempted one last push, but Agada had different plans tonight, closing the game with 5 points for 43 points. Be'er Sheva beat Maccabi 93:79.