Basketball / Maccabi Tel Aviv Survives Eilat Scare

Maccabi Haifa ruins Netanya’s perfect record in thriller, Hapoel Jerusalem wins in Holon.

Oded Katash has done it all to Maccabi Tel Aviv. The ex-player and ex-coach has beat the Israeli champions endless times, and for awhile last night it seemed he was going to do it again. Katash, now as Eilat coach, saw his team rally back from nine points down at the half, jumping to a nine-point lead in the third quarter after Scotty Hopson and Jerome Tillman took control of the game. The Eilat fans’ volume was still rising when Devin Smith and Lior Eliyahu steadily led Maccabi back into the game, and Ricky Hickman and Malcolm Thomas led the champions on a 21-2 run on their way to 79-68 victory.

Maccabi coach David Blatt: “It was an excellent game. EIlat are a very good team, Oded is doing a wonderful job here. Their fans got behind them, and there was a very good atmosphere. It’s great that Eilat is back in the top basketball league.”

Katash: “Was it a good game? Good games are when you win. I’m very disappointed because we had our chances in both halves, and in both halves our inexperience hurt us. Maccabi made adjustments at the right moments, but we lost focus and couldn’t hold on.”

Said Eliyahu: “We were listening to the news all day in the hotel, and we’re trying to explain to the foreign players exactly what’s happening. Then we came to play, and tried to stay focused. Eilat have amazing fans, it was quite an experience.”

Barak Netanya arrived in Haifa with a perfect record, five wins in five games, and gave the fans a true thriller. Netanya was the first to go ahead, with an 11-2 run on the way to an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, and sustaining a six-point edge by the half. Haifa clawed back in the third quarter, and it was a see-saw match until Netanya’s Ramel Bradley equalized it with 47 seconds to go on his 19th point. Netanya’s defense stopped Haifa’s next charge, but Bradley missed the last shot, taking the teams to overtime, in which Haifa were just too strong, dealing Netanya their first defeat this season, 92-84.

In Holon, Hapoel Jerusalem continued their revival with a 78-66 win, mostly thanks to 14 points by Josh Duncan, and two crucial three-pointers in the last quarter by Courtney Fells.