Basketball / Birenboim's Return to Yad Eliahu a Sad One as Rishon Iced

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Effi Birenboim had little more success last night in Yad Eliahu than he did when he was with the home team, as his Maccabi Rishon Letzion received a 105-74 drubbing. Elsewhere in the league Barak Netanya disposed of Hapoel Afula 90-77 while Ironi Ramat Gan held on to beat Ironi Nahariya 86-80.

Maccabi Haifa, meanwhile, avenged its 35-point loss earlier this season to Gilboa/Galil by eking out an 80-78 victory. Free throw woes dogged Galil, which converted a mere 18 of 31 attempts from the charity stripe.

In Rishon's game, Birenboim looked like he had no answer to Maccabi's offense. After the game, he yelled at his players that they failed to play with pride or put up a fight.

Tel Aviv got off to a slow start, as coach Pini Gershon played Chuck Eidson at the point. Rishon was able to penetrate a lackluster defense and ended the quarter down just 25-21. However, Tel Aviv switched to a three-guard offense in the second period and opened up a 47-36 margin by halftime.

Rishon made no serious run in the second half as the game devolved into garbage time. "It's not a game to help us prepare for Efes Pilsen," said Gershon, referring to Maccabi Tel Aviv's Euroleague contest in Turkey on Wednesday.

In Afula yesterday, Barak Netanya showed that as the league newcomer it is not only the hit of the league but also has a lot of character. Despite the letdown from being beaten by Maccabi Tel Aviv in the State Cup playoffs, Netanya stayed in control of the game against Afula.

Shmulik Brenner, who had struggled recently, came through with 15 points and five assists. He also played tough defense against Justin Dentmon, holding the point guard to 5-of-14 shooting. Dentmon also committed six turnovers.

Netanya is now in a strong position for the playoffs.

Afula managed to rally from a double-digit deficit to go ahead midway through the third quarter, but Netanya forced a series of turnovers that translated into transition baskets and rebuilt its lead.

In Ramat Gan, Yaniv Berger won his second career game since taking over for Danny Gut as the hosts won by six points. The victory lifted Ramat Gan out of last place for the first time this season. Gary Forbes - who was brought over by Berger - had the hot hand, scoring 28 points. He also played smartly under the basket to deny Nahariya a chance to catch up.