By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv wrapped up their regular season in the Euroleague with a 7 – 3 record, good enough for second place in Group C and a spot in the Top 16, following their 86 – 69 road win over Belgacom Spirou of Belgium. The most notable player for Maccabi from the first minutes of the game was Keith Langford, who was unstoppable with 20 points. David Blu, Devin Smith, and Guy Pnini also made strong contributions, especially from downtown. The drawing for the Top 16 will take place on December 28; Maccabi will face, among others, one of the following teams: Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, or Fenerbahce Ulker.
Yogev Ohayon, Devin Smith, David Blu, Keith Langford, and Sofo Schortsanitis started the game for Maccabi. Demond Mallet scored first, putting the hosts on the scoreboard 2 – 0, but Sofo (twice), Smith (from the foul line), and Ohayon (with a putback) put Maccabi up 8 – 2 within three minutes. Belgacom fired up their offense and pulled within two, 12 – 10 with four minutes left in the period. Langford scored from outside the arc (and from inside the arc twice) to make it 19 – 15, then wrapped up his 10 point run with a trey from the top of the arc as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter; 22 – 16, Maccabi.
Maccabi continued playing well at the start of the second quarter. A catch and shoot on the inbounds by David Blu got things started, then Theo Papaloukas added a layup and 1, and Smith’s dunk (assist Sofo) made it 29 – 20 after three and a half minutes of play in the period. Mallet delivered another three pointer, but Papaloukas scored, then stole the ball, then scored again, while Smith added a putback that put Maccabi up 35 – 28 with just over three and a half minutes left in the period. The Belgians made good use of a timeout and came back to score while toughening up on defense to pull within three, but Guy Pnini delivered one of his clutch three pointers from the top of the arc to give Maccabi some breathing room. The half ended with Maccabi leading 38 – 34.
Maccabi completely dominated the third quarter at both of ends of the court, starting off with a 15 – 1 scoring run in the first five minutes that included a trey by Blu (assist Sofo) from the right wing, points from the charity stripe by Sofo and Ohayon, a putback by Smith, points under the basket by Blu (assist Ohayon), and five straight from Langford (assist Smith plus a layup), as well as defensive boards by Blu and Smith and a steal by Ohayon, 53 - 35. The only stats the Belgians accumulated were missed shots and turnovers until Mallet sank a deuce at the halfway mark in the period. Richard Hendrix sank a layup and a near-three pointer (assist Langford) to put Maccabi up by twenty, 61 – 41 with less than three and a half minutes on the clock. Team captain Tal Burstein drained a three from the right side (assist Ohayon), and Papaloukas added two more to round out the period with Maccabi leading 68 – 49.
The fourth quarter got off to a slow start, with no points scored by either side until two minutes had elapsed. Langford scored on a give-and-go, and Blu added two more, but a perfectly thrown alley oop by Papaloukas to Hendrix, who slammed it home one-handed, was the stuff highlight films are made of, 74 – 51 Maccabi. Mallet and Caleb Green scored for the hosts, but superior defense by Papaloukas prevented them from building a run. Shawn James scored off an assist from Pnini, who went on to make a long-distance call from the left side as well as a layup to make it 81 – 59 with two minutes left in the game. Pnini’s off-balance bucket in the paint and 1 was followed by a few more points for the hosts, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv cruised to an 86 – 69 victory over Belgacom Spirou of Charleroi to wrap up their regular Euroleague season with a 7 – 3 record and a spot in the Top 16.
Maccabi: Langford 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal; Blu 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists; Pnini 11 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Smith 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists; Papaloukas 9 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals; Schortsanitis 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block; Hendrix 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; James 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal; Ohayon 4 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Burstein 3 points, 2 rebounds.
Top scorers for Belgacom: Green 16 points; Mallet 13 points.