By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv’s 83 – 77 win over KK Cedevita Zagreb locked up the first place slot, which the Israeli team has held since early in the season. Richard Hendrix, Lior Eliyahu, and Devin Smith each scored 14 points, and were joined in double figures by David Blu who scored 12 key points (10 in the final period) and Demond Mallet contributed 10 points.
Starters for Maccabi were David Blu, Demond Mallet, Keith Langford, Guy Pnini, and Sofo Schortsanitis. The game got underway with a mid-court steal and layup by Mallet, but the hosts quickly took the lead and after three minutes the score was 8 – 2. A layup by Mallet stopped the run, but Marko Car, Dontaye Draper and Christopher Owens all scored for Cedevita, whose lead grew to double digits, 14 – 4 near the halfway mark in the period. Richard Hendrix and Devin Smith came into the game following a time-out and immediately made their presence felt on the court, with the former scoring a layup and the latter adding a baseline jumper. A three from Mallet, a layup on the fastbreak by Lior Eliyahu and a hook shot by Hendrix made it a one point game with seconds
left on the clock, but a free throw for the hosts ended the quarter with Cedevita leading 17 – 15.
Maccabi opened the second period with a 10 – 0 scoring run crafted by Eliyahu, team captain Tal Burstein (who drained a trey from the top of the arc off a dime from Yogev Ohayon), and a three pointer from Smith (assist Eliyahu). Matjaz Smodis scored for the home team, but was answered by a baseline drive by Hendrix and another three from Mallet on the left wing off a steal/dish by Eliyahu, 30 – 22, Maccabi midway through the period. Cedevita managed to pull within three, but Smith scored from downtown to alleviate the pressure a bit. A Smodis bucket and 1 was followed by two from the charity stripe by teammate Marino Bazdaric, 35 – 34 Maccabi with two and a half minutes left in the half. Owens put the lead back in Cedevita’s hands and several of his teammates joined in on a 13 – 0 scoring run. Points from outside the arc by Burstein put Maccabi within four as time ran out on the half with the hosts leading 42 – 38.
The third quarter also got underway with points by Eliyahu, and Hendrix’s bucket and 1 made it a one point game, 44 – 43. Maccabi’s defense, including two blocks by Hendrix, kept Cedevita in check, allowing only 2 points from the charity stripe, while steal/layup by Ohayon put Maccabi back on top, 50 – 49 with just over five minutes left in the period. But Cedevita wanted to maintain their perfect record at home, and retook the lead, 55 – 54 with two and a half minutes left in the period. Sofo Schortsanitis scored five straight points for Maccabi, but Smodis single-handedly gave Cedevita back the lead, and the quarter ended with the hosts up 63 – 59.
Smooth teamwork at the start of the fourth quarter saw quick passing from Ohayon to Eliyahu to Hendrix for the bucket and 1 that made it a one point game again after a minute. Owens responded, but Hendrix’s bounce pass under the basket to Eliyahu prepared the way for two free throws by David Blu to give the lead back to Maccabi, 66 – 65, two and a half minutes into the period. Tough defense by Maccabi kept the hosts a bay for awhile, but once again Cedevita fought their way back into the game, taking a 71 – 70 lead with three and a half remaining on the clock. A classic Blu-and-shoot (assist Ohayon) and points by Hendrix made it 75 – 72 Maccabi a minute later. Owens managed to tie the score at 77 with less than a minute remaining, but Blu delivered three from the left corner (assist Hendrix) and two more from the foul line to give Maccabi a five point cushion with 25 seconds on the clock. Smith added one more and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv racked up yet another Adriatic League victory, this time over KK Cedevita Zagreb by a score of 83 – 77.
Maccabi: Hendrix 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist; Smith 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists; Eliyahu 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals; Blu 12 points, 1 rebound; Mallet 10 points, 1 steal; Schortsanitis 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals; Burstein 6 points; Ohayon 6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals.
Top scorers for Cedevita: Smodis 16 points; Owens 16 points; Bazdaric 12 points.