By Amy Samin
Current Israel Cup holders Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv have advanced to the final of the 2012 Israel Cup after defeating Hapoel Holon by a score of 91 – 70 at Nokia Arena. Lior Eliyahu and Devin Smith were top scorers for Maccabi with 20 points apiece, while Keith Langford added 17 points. Yogev Ohayon had another excellent game, with 9 points and 7 assists. The felonious Maccabi defense racked up an amazing 15 steals on the night. Awaiting Maccabi in the final on Thursday night at 8:45 pm is Maccabi Rishon Lezion, led by head coach Effi Birenboim.
Starters for Maccabi were Keith Langford, Yogev Ohayon, Lior Eliyahu, Devin Smith, and Richard Hendrix. Ohayon scored the first points for Maccabi, and within three and a half minutes was joined on the scoreboard by Langford, Hendrix with a mid-range jumper, and Eliyahu in the paint, 8 – 3. Holon added points from the foul line, which were matched by an inbounds dunk from Eliyahu. Eliyahu and Sofo Schortsanitis dominated the second half of the period for Maccabi, whose lead had grown to 21 – 12 by the one minute mark. Ohayon executed a brilliant give-and-go dunk and Guy Pnini dropped in a one-handed putback fadeaway plus free throw to end the period with Maccabi leading 27 – 16.
A three pointer by Ron Lewis for Holon kicked off the second quarter, and was followed by a deuce by Shlomi Harush to make it 27 – 21, after two minutes. Smith and Eliyahu scored to give Maccabi some breathing room, and two free throws from Hendrix made it a double digit lead, 33 – 23 close to halfway through the period, while steals by Langford and team captain Tal Burstein kept Holon’s offense off-balance. A three-point catch-and-shoot from the corner by Burstein (assist Ohayon) made it 38 – 27 with less than three and a half minutes remaining in the half, but points by Bryant Dunston an Moran Roth shrank the deficit for Holon just before time ran out. Sofo suffered injury to his bad knee and left the court, but returned later in the game. Steals by Hendrix and Smith prevented Holon from extending their run, and the teams went into the locker rooms with Maccabi leading 38 – 32.
The first two minutes of the third quarter saw a dazzling display by Smith, who went on an 8 point scoring run (trey from the left side, assist Ohayon; drive to the basket, and three from the charity stripe) to make it 46 – 32. Tasmin Mitchell put a stop to Smith’s streak, but Ohayon scored from downtown off a dime from Hendrix, while a steal by Smith once again disrupted Holon’s offense. Smith added another three-pointer to his stats, then delivered a reverse layup that put Maccabi up 56 – 38 just past the midway point of the period. Ohayon picked Dunston’s pocket and Langford drained a three off an assist from David Blu, 59 – 40 Maccabi with just under three minutes left on the clock. Roth and Dunston fought to keep Holon in the game, but Burstein’s points from downtown (assist Hendrix) were followed by a steal by Blu, a dunk by Langford (another assist by Hendrix) and a steal by Jon Scheyer to wrap up the quarter with Maccabi up by twenty, 65 – 45.
The fourth quarter opened with three from the charity stripe by Lewis for Holon, but an interception by Ohayon led to a reverse layup by Eliyahu at the other end of the court. Dunston and Roth combined for seven points, but Maccabi put an end to the run with a layup by Smith, steals by Langford and Ohayon, a stop-and-pop by Blu and a tap in by Smith that made it 74 – 57 close to halfway through the period. Roth and Mitchell scored for Holon, but were seen and raised by points from Eliyahu on the alley oop from Ohayon, a putback dunk from Blu, and a steal by Langford that culminated in a soaring 360˚ dunk. The final minutes of the game were played mostly from the foul line, but also included another three from Langford at the top of the arc, a steal by Blu and points in the paint from Eliyahu. In the end, solid offense and ferocious defense gave Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv the 91 – 70 win over Hapoel Holon in the Israel Cup semifinal. The Cup Final will take place on Thursday February 16 at 8:45 pm at Nokia Arena.
Maccabi: Smith 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals; Eliyahu 20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Langford 17 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds; Ohayon 9 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds; Blu 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; Burstein 6 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block; Hendrix 5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal; Schortsanitis 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist; Pnini 3 points, 2 rebounds. Scheyer 1 steal.
Top scorers for Holon: Dunston 21 points; Lewis 18 points; Roth 16 points.