By Amy Samin
In their last game before facing Zalgiris Kaunas in the Euroleague Top 16, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Ironi Eldan Ashkelon 108 – 75, finishing with an impressive 14 of 28 shooting from three point range, and 26 assists. Keith Langford scored 21 points, David Blu added 20, and Lior Eliyahu contributed 18 points. The latter was honored before the game for having reached 2,000 points in the Israeli League.
Coach David Blatt selected Eliyahu, Langford, Blu, Sofo Schortsanitis, and Demond Mallet as his starters. The visitors from Ashkelon jumped to an early lead, 6 – 2 off points from Marco Killingsworth, but a three pointer from Blu put Maccabi within one, and free throws by Eliyahu gave the hosts the lead, 7 – 6 after just over two minutes. Langford scored from the top of the arc, and Sofo and Eliyahu (off an alley oop from Langford) scored in the paint. Langford’s putback made it a ten point lead for Maccabi, 18 – 8 near the halfway mark, and Ashkelon called for a timeout to regroup. It must have helped, because the visitors soon scored their first points in two minutes, but it didn’t help them much, with Blu scoring from the left corner (rebound/assist Eliyahu) and Richard Hendrix dropping in a layup. A spin-and-in by Eliyahu and a steal + points by Langford made it 27 – 14 with two and a half minutes left in the period. Ashkelon managed to add a few points to their score, but a trey at the buzzer from Jon Scheyer (who seems to be making this a habit) on the left side made it 30 – 20 as the first quarter ended.
The second quarter opened with points by Hendrix (assist Mallet) and a drive in the lane by Yogev Ohayon. Ashkelon scored their first points in the period off a bucket by Niv Berkowitz after more than two minutes of play in the period. Scheyer scored again from downtown, and Maccabi’s defense kept the visitors locked down on offense. A dunk by Langford with four minutes left in the period put Maccabi up by twenty, 45 – 25. By the time the period ended, Maccabi had blocked shots and forced turnovers while Langford and Blu scored at will, outscoring Ashkelon 23 – 9 in the quarter, and setting the score at 53 – 29 going into halftime.
While Ashkelon bounced back on offense in the third quarter, Langford and Eliyahu kept Maccabi’s lead comfortable. Eliyahu’s dunk off a dish from Sofo made it 62 – 40 halfway through the period. Scheyer drained another three, from the right corner this time, and Blu added two straight buckets from outside the arc (assists Scheyer and Sofo) to make it 75 – 44 with two and a half minutes left in the period. Smart rotation of players kept Maccabi fresh, and kept Ashkelon to only 8 points in the second half of the quarter. The period ended with Maccabi leading 78 – 50.
The visitors scored twice at the start of the fourth quarter, but Sofo continued to do battle under the basket, adding six points in quick succession to make it 84 – 58 after three minutes. Blu added a bucket and 1 and Hendrix scored after faking a pass (assist Langford) to make it 89 – 61. Amit Simhon and Mitchell scored for Ashkelon, but Blu added another three pointer and Hendrix scored twice in quick succession, once off an assist from Eliyahu and once after pulling down two straight offensive boards, 96 – 70. Ohayon and Scheyer each sank baskets from downtown, 102 – 70 with two and a half minutes left in the game. Ohayon added a layup and free throw, but it was team captain Tal Burstein who wrapped the game up with a three pointer to give Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv a 108 – 75 victory over Ironi Eldan Ashkelon.
Maccabi: Langford 21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals; Blu 20 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block; Eliyahu 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists; Schortsanitis 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block; Scheyer 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists; Hendrix 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks; Ohayon 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal; Burstein 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal; Mallet 2 points, 2 assists, 2 steals.
Top scorers for Ashkelon: Mitchell 12 points; Killingsworth, Simhon and Limonad 11 points each.