By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 76-68 and claimed a 1-0 advantage in the best of five quarterfinal series of the Israeli Winner Sal League. Ricky Hickman led Maccabi's scorers with 23 points (9 of 9 from the foul line), and Devin Smith contributed 16 points and 7 rebounds. Guy Pnini and team captain Lior Eliyahu scored 9 points each. Sylven Landesberg received an award from the League Administration for scoring over 1,000 points in the League.
Shawn James, Devin Smith, Ricky Hickman, Lior Eliyahu and Yogev Ohayon started the game for Maccabi. Maccabi started strong with a 9-3 run in the first minutes of the game. Smith and James helped extend that to 13-5 by the halfway mark, but Hapoel woke up and scored six straight, making it a two point game. Smith, Guy Pnini and Darko Planinic scored for Maccabi, crafting a double digit lead for the home team 27-15 at the end of the period.
Maccabi continued to dominate at the start of the second period, jumping to a 32-17 lead in the first three minutes of the quarter. A pair of treys by Pnini made it 40-20 at the middle of the period,but Maccabi eased back, allowing Hapoel to go on a scoring run and narrow the gap, 42-33 at the end of the half.
Hapoel was able to cut the deficit to single figures early in the third quarter, but Hickman stopped their run, making it 48-37 after five minutes. The pace slowed as neither team could find the bottom of the net and the game was stopped repeatedly. The quarter ended with Maccabi up 53-44.
Maccabi couldn't recreate their earlier momentum, while five unanswered points by Hapoel made it a 54-49 game a minute and a half into the final quarter. As usual, it was Smith with a key triple who stopped the Hapoel run, but the visitors soon responded in kind, and went on to pull within three. Hickman scored two bucket-and 1s and Smith sank another three to put Maccabi's lead back in double figures. In the end, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 76-68.
Maccabi: Hickman 23 points; Smith 16 points, 7 rebounds; Pnini and Eliyahu 9 points each; Ohayon 5 points, 10 rebounds; Logan and Planinic 5 points each; James 4 points, 6 rebounds.