By Amy Samin
They’re movin’ on up: Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Bnei Hasharon in Herzliya by a score of 90 – 68 and advanced to the Israeli Cup quarterfinals, where they will face Division II team Hapoel Afula in an away game on Thursday. Lior Eliyahu led all scorers for Maccabi with 21 points and 6 rebounds; Devin Smith added 16 points and 5 boards, and Shawn James had a double double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Demond Mallet delivered no less than 9 assists. In the second half, Maccabi kept Bnei Hasharon to only 27 points.
“It was a good game for both teams,” said Maccabi’s head coach David Blatt after the game. “Bnei Hasharon made out lives very difficult in the first half, and in the second half we demonstrated the maturity of a team that knows the importance of its position. We’re the ones who had something to lose tonight; Bnei Hasharon only had something to gain. Personally, I think they gained some good things for their team as a whole, and we gained a spot in the quarterfinals. Any game that we come away from without injuries and with a win is good enough for me.”
About the road to the Israeli cup, the coach said, “We really want to advance to the Cup Final Four; it’s very important to us. I am not familiar with Afula so I can’t really give an opinion. We’re going to be doing some homework, because while they’ve seen us play three times a week all season, we’ve never seen them play. We’ll go there, we’ll show them respect, and we’ll play the best game we can in order to advance to the next level.” Blatt indicated that Keith Langford, who has an injured ankle, will play on Thursday. “I’m planning on playing him, because he’s doing better. He had some tenderness in his ankle; we’re not sure what caused it.”
Demond Mallet, Devin Smith, Yogev Ohayon, Shawn James and Lior Eliyahu started the game for Maccabi. Maccabi started the game well, with a three from Ohayon (assist Mallet) and a layup by Eliyahu, but Kenny Lawson soon scored from outside the arc to keep Bnei Hasharon close. Mallet drained a stop-and-pop and Eliyahu scored again, but Lawson once again delivered from outside the arc to make it 9 – 6 after three minutes of play in the period. By the halfway mark, Lawson had scored 11 points and given the hosts a 13 – 12 lead. Shawn James quickly scored to put Maccabi back on top, then team captain Tal Burstein and big man Richard Hendrix came into the game, with the latter immediately pulling down an offensive board and later scoring off the glass. Hendrix then went on to kick off a dazzling play: his steal went to Mallet, who dished to Eliyahu for the points at the other end. David Blu scored as well (assist Mallet), making it 21 – 13 Maccabi with two minutes on the clock. Guy Lavie and Lawson helped to keep Bnei Hasharon close, but the quarter ended with Maccabi leading 23 – 20.
Lawson and Jason Williams scored at the start of the second quarter to put the home team back on top, 25 – 23. Hendrix soon tied the score (assist Blu) but Bnei Hasharon succeeded in moving the ball well and making great shots; by the five minute mark they led 35 – 29. Eliyahu and Hendrix put Maccabi within two, but Lawson (who ended the half with 21 points) delivered another three pointer to make it 38 – 33. Smith’s trey from the left wing narrowed the gap, and two straight buckets by Eliyahu tied the score at 40 with just under three minutes left in the half. Hendrix’s steal + dunk put the lead back in Maccabi’s hands, and Mallet scored from downtown. The period ended with Maccabi leading 45 – 41.
Williams scored at the start of the third quarter and was answered by Smith with points from the top of the arc. Shawn James scored twice (assists Ohayon and Eliyahu), and Ohayon scored from three point range to make it a ten point lead, 55 – 45, after three and a half minutes of play. Ohayon made a nice play in the lane but was soon answered by Williams. Lawson’s bucket and 1 cut Maccabi’s lead to nine, but points from the charity stripe by Smith and a steal + dunk from Eliyahu opened things back up, 63 – 50 with four minutes left in the period. Blu added more points with a trey and a free throw and Smith delivered twice in a row in the final minute; the quarter ended with Maccabi leading 71 – 56.
Jon Scheyer started the fourth quarter for Maccabi and immediately made an impact. In addition to his usual intensity on defense, Scheyer soon scored a three from the right wing, then added two more on a stop-and-pop at the top of the key, 76 – 58 Maccabi, two and a half minutes into the period. Scheyer and Mallet applied a full court press and Smith made a steal, while James executed one of his three blocks on the night. Scheyer’s steal + layup made it 84 – 61 and forced Bnei Hasharon to call a timeout close to the five minute mark. The huddle with their coach seemed to do the hosts some good, because Williams, Lawson and Del James all scored, cutting their team’s deficit to 84 – 68 within a minute and a half. A timeout called by Blatt put things back on track, with Maccabi’s defense making the stops on defense and Ohayon and Hendrix scoring. Burstein delivered the coup de grace with a three pointer (assist Scheyer) just before time ran out, and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv advanced to the quarterfinals of the Israeli Cup with a 90 – 68 victory over Bnei Hasharon Herzliya.
Maccabi: Eliyahu 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals; Smith 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 1 assist; James 11 pints, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist; Hendrix 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 1 assist; Ohayon 10 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block; Scheyer 7 points, 1 assist, 1 steal; Blu 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists; Mallet 5 points, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound, 1 block; Burstein 3 points; Pnini 3 assists.
Top scorers for Bnei Hasharon: Lawson 26 points, 11 rebounds; Williams 15 points