By Amy Samin
Andrew Wisniewski, Guy Pnini, Chuck Eidson, David Bluthenthal and D’or Fischer opened for Maccabi, while Bnei Hasharon led off with P.J. Tucker, Ron Steele, Ben Rice, Shawn James and Ori Ichaki.
The home team scored the opening points of the game, but it wasn’t long before Wisniewski sank a long two pointer to give Maccabi the lead, 4 – 2.
The advantage soon evaporated, as Bnei Hasharon dominated the paint and took an 8 – 4 lead after three minutes of play.
Maccabi slowly began closing the gap, with a shot from outside the arc by Pnini bringing the visitors within two, 13 – 11 at the halfway mark in the period.
Two by Bluthenthal from the charity stripe briefly gave Maccabi a one point lead, but Rice quickly obliterated that with a three pointer of his own.
Maccabi fought hard to regain control of the game, and were able to hobble Bnei Hasharon on offense for the remaining minutes of the quarter.
Green drove hard to the basket for two points, and Bluthenthal dropped in a putback to tie the score. Perkins was fouled after a steal and drive to the basket, and gave Maccabi a slim lead at the buzzer, 21 – 20.
The second quarter also opened with points scored by Bnei Hasharon, but Wiz retaliated by scoring over the much taller James to retake the lead for Maccabi.
Green quickly followed suit, scoring off the glass over James’ head.
Bnei Hasharon refused to let Maccabi build up a big lead, first tying then retaking the advantage off points by Tucker.
Maccabi played catch up for the rest of the period, at times coming within one, and then falling to four points down.
A three pointer from Alan Anderson in the corner made it 35 – 34, and a fade-away by Perkins put Maccabi up by two.
But Clancy and company quickly retook the lead, which swelled to six points at the end of the half, 46 – 40 to Bnei Hasharon.
Bnei Hasharon opened the third quarter with more points, extending their lead to 49 – 40, and tempers on the court began to flare.
Wisniewski especially was fired up, scoring, diving for steals and playing smart defense; he was Maccabi’s only scorer in the first few minutes of the period.
Green and Doron Perkins also fought hard on defense, holding Bnei Hasharon to only two points while Maccabi scored ten, closing the gap to 54 – 51 off a dunk by Eidson (assist by Green).
Maccabi forced the hosts into a shot clock violation and Perkins’ three from outside where the new arc will be drawn next season gave Maccabi a 55 – 54 lead with four and a half left on the clock.
The lead traded hands a couple more times, with Perkins and Pnini scoring to keep Maccabi close, but Bnei Hasharon scored to move ahead, 63 – 60 at the end of the period.
The fourth quarter was dominated by Bnei Hasharon, who was fighting to keep the series, and their chances of making it to the Final Four, alive.
After three minutes they led by eight, 70 – 62.
Pnini scored from the top of the arc, but points by Sam Clancy and Steele soon gave the hosts a ten point lead, 75 – 65.
With just over three minutes left in the game Maccabi moved to a full-court press, which slowed Bnei Hasharon somewhat.
Wisniewski continued to go full out on every play, but a string of missed shots and bad passes hampered Maccabi’s ability to get back in the game.
Eidson drained two three pointers in the final minute of the game, but in the end Maccabi fell short, losing 91 – 81 to Bnei Hasharon.
The deciding game of the series will take place on Monday at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv.
Maccabi: Eidson 17 points, 9 rebounds; Wisniewski 17 points, 5 assists; Perkins 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists; Pnini 10 points, 5 rebounds; Bluthenthal 10 points; Green and Anderson 6 points each; Fischer 4 points.
Bnei Hasharon: James 20 points; Tucker 18 points; Steele and Ichaki 14 points each; Clancy 12 points; Katz 7 points; Rice 6 points.
After the game, Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon said, “I know why we lost this game.
Usually, after a loss you need to explain what happened but I think everyone knows why we lost this game.
We didn’t play well, and we’ll have to do it the hard way in order to qualify for the Final Four.
We didn’t celebrate even after we won by 30 points.
We’re a better team than they are, and we’ll be playing at home; everything depends on us.”
“The next game will be different,” said Chuck Eidson.
“I expect things to even out; it can’t be the same.
I still have confidence in us, but we’ll see what happens.
We’ll do what we need to do.”