By Amy Samin
Keith Langford (20 points, 7 of 10 from 2 point range; 38 minutes playing time) led Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv to a 77 – 74 victory over Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion. David Blu added 15 points, while Guy Pnini and Lior Eliyahu each contributed 13 points. Theo Papaloukas and Yogev Ohayon made 7 and 6 assists, respectively.
Blatt’s starting five were Keith Langford, Yogev Ohayon, Guy Pnini, Richard Hendrix and Lior Eliyahu. Five straight points from Pnini at the start of the quarter put Maccabi up 7 – 4, but Adrian Uter and Rishon fought back and took an 11 – 7 lead halfway through the period. Pnini scored from the right corner (assist Langford) to put Maccabi within one, and Langford added a baseline jumper to put Maccabi back on top. Nitzan Hanochi quickly retook the lead for the hosts, while Langford and Hendrix each scored, and the quarter ended with the score tied 16 – 16.
Although Rishon Lezion opened the second quarter with a shot clock violation, points from Derwin Kitchen soon put the hosts in the lead, 22 - 19. Points on two straight inbounds plays gave Maccabi a 23 – 22 lead, but the lead continued to change hands for the next three minutes. Rishon Lezion retook the lead off points by Igor Nesterenko, but the game remained close through the end of the half, which ended with the home team up39 – 35.
A trey by Pnini on the right wing (assist Hendrix) put Maccabi within one in the first minute of the third quarter, but Brandon Bowman and Rishon worked hard to keep the lead, which grew to 49 – 44 midway through the period. Pnini scored off a no-look dish from Theo Papaloukas in the paint to close the gap a little, and Eliyahu tied it up at 51 after two straight buckets and a point after. A layup by Papaloukas put Maccabi on top for the first time in the period, 53 – 51 but with seconds left the hosts made it 53 – 53.
A dunk by Uter put Rishon ahead but seconds later David Blu drained one of his patented catch and shoots from the right corner (assist Eliyahu) to put Maccabi ahead for good, 56 – 55. Shawn James added a slick hook shot and Papaloukas found Eliyahu in the paint, making it 60 – 55 with three and a half minutes gone. Eliyahu also scored following a steal by Langford, and Blu sank another three on a cross court dime from Ohayon, 67 – 62 with three minutes left. Or Solomon scored for the home team but was answered by a putback by Hendrix. Langford added two straight buckets to put Maccabi up by eight, 73 – 65. Kitchen and Uter combined to pull Rishon within two, 74 – 72, but Blu and Langford scored from the foul line to give Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv a 77 – 74 victory over Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion.
Maccabi: Langford 20 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Blu 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists; Eliyahu 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal; Pnini 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals; James 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist; Hendrix 4 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist; Papaloukas 4 points, 7 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Ohayon 6 assists, 4 rebounds.
Top scorers for Rishon Lezion: Bowman 19 points; Kitchen 15 points.