By Amy Samin
A strong second half was enough to give Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv both the win in Rishon Lezion and the top spot in the Lotto League with a perfect 4 – 0 record.
Pargo was unstoppable, finishing with 25 points, 7 assists and 4 steals.
Doron Perkins also had an excellent game, scoring 20 points (including 3 from ¾ court) and David Blu added 14.
Guy Pnini, Lior Eliyahu, Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Doron Perkins and Jeremy Pargo started the game for Maccabi, facing off against Nizan Hanochi, Eyal Shulman, Dwayne Mitchell, Raymar Morgan and Aaron McGhee for the home team.
The early minutes of the game were close, and after four minutes of play Rishon led 7 – 6.
Mitchell with a basket and foul made it 13 – 8 for Rishon, causing Maccabi head coach David Blatt to call his first time out of the game.
Maccabi had some trouble stopping the home team, who took a 20 – 12 lead, until five straight points from David Blu closed the gap, 22 – 19 with thirty seconds left in the first quarter.
The period ended with points from the charity stripe for Mitchell, giving Rishon a 23 – 19 advantage.
Maccabi opened the second quarter strong on defense, and were able to convert that to easy points; after a minute of play Maccabi had taken the lead, 27 – 23 thanks to baskets by Perk and co-captain Tal Burstein.
Shulman scored twice from middle distance to tie things up at 27, with seven minutes left in the half.
Rishon continued to play well, and Denis Clemente brought his team to a 35 – 31 lead with three minutes remaining.
Maccabi once again narrowed the gap, and points by Yaniv Green made it 38 – 37 with fifty seconds on the clock.
At the buzzer, Perkins launched a mind-boggling guided missile from three-quarters of the court away from the basket, sinking it with nothin’ but net and putting Maccabi up 40 – 39 going into halftime.
The momentum generated by Perkins carried over into the third quarter, with Maccabi extending their lead to 49 – 44 with five straight points.
McGhee, who had an excellent night, tied the score at 50; for the next several minutes the teams traded points, keeping the score more or less at a tie.
With three minutes left in the period Pargo scored a bucket and one to make it 58 – 55, Maccabi.
Blu sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to close out the quarter with Maccabi in the lead, 65 – 56.
Rishon opened the fourth period with points from downtown, but Pargo responded by scoring five straight points in ten seconds thanks to a steal by Eliyahu on an inbounds pass.
Maccabi’s new guard showed amazing ability on his penetrations in the paint, taking Maccabi to a 74 – 59 lead with three minutes left in the game.
Sofo added points from a basket and unsportsmanlike foul, effectively closing down the home team.
Pargo and Perk closed the deal with some help from team captain Derrick Sharp, who sent home one of his signature three-pointers from the corner.
The game ended in an 89 – 68 win for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion.
Leading scorers for Maccabi: Pargo 25 points, 7 assists, 4 steals; Perkins: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists; Blu 14 points; Eliyahu 8 points; Schortsanitis 6 points.
Top scorers for Rishon: McGhee 21 points, 10 rebounds; Morgan 14 points; Clemente 10 points.
After the game, coach David Blatt said, “I’m glad we had a good test tonight; it wasn’t an easy game.
Rishon came into the game with a plan and it worked fairly well in the first half.
We had the patience and the smarts to wait for the right moment to break them without getting panicked or stressed.
We did that in the best possible way in the second half. That shows maturity, understanding, and intelligence.”
“I have to say that Maccabi wasn’t bad on defense, but Rishon was good on offense.
Compared to the games against Jerusalem and Partizan, tonight Sofo didn’t have a good game.
He didn’t score against Jerusalem, and against Partizan you could see the plus-minus; he was number one in the game.
Not tonight; his game tonight was not as good.
Others knew how to fill in, and that’s also good and proves something.”
One of the stars of the game, Doron Perkins, said: “We have a good team.
In every game someone else steps up, that’s what happens when you’ve got a good team.
We should’ve been more focused in the first half.
Rishon is a good team, but you can’t ask for more after the way it ended.
I think our defense wasn’t bad, McGhee got in a couple of good shots, he had a great game and we tried to deal with him.
They scored a few points in the transition, but our defense picked up in the second half.”