By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv pulled out a tough 69 – 59 win over a stubborn Belgacom Spirou team in Week 5 of the Euroleague. At the conclusion of the first round of games, Maccabi remains on top in Group C with a 4 – 1 record. Yogev Ohayon, who played exceptionally well throughout the game, was named MVP. Eliyahu led Maccabi’s scorers with 15 points, and Blu contributed 12. Next up: Ljubljana on Saturday in the Adriatic League, then Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli League on Sunday.
Maccabi’s starters were Lior Eliyahu, Jordan Farmar, Yogev Ohayon, Shawn James and Keith Langford. The home team looked good early on, thanks to James (excellent defense), a dunk by Langford, and two straight assists by Ohayon to Eliyahu, giving Maccabi a 9 – 4 lead after three minutes. Demond Mallett from Belgacom Spirou showed off his impressive ability and pulled his team within two, 11 – 9. James continued to dominate on defense with a string of blocks, while David Blu scored from the right corner and Richard Hendrix downed a putback to give Maccabi some breathing room, 17 – 9 with just under three minutes left in the period. The pair each scored again, with Blu nonchalantly draining a mega-three from close to half court and Hendrix adding two from the foul line, and the quarter ended with Maccabi leading 22 – 11.
The Belgians came out strong at the start of the second quarter, outscoring Maccabi 9 – 0 and narrowing the gap once again to two, 22 – 20. Points from the charity stripe by Theo Papaloukas stopped the Belgian run, and points by James extended the lead to six, 26 – 20. But Belgacom Spirou refused to give up, battling their way to a 27 – 26 lead just past the halfway mark in the period. A trey by Ohayon, a massive block by James (one of four on the night) and a dunk by Eliyahu put Maccabi back on top. Points by Hendrix (assist Langford) and Langford kept Maccabi in the lead until a long two by Mallett sent the teams into halftime with the score tied 35 – 35.
Doing what he does best, Blu opened the third quarter with a catch-and-shoot from the left side to put Maccabi on top 38 – 35. A putback by Sofo Schortsanitis and a smooth reverse layup by Farmar extended the lead, but the visitors kept responding. A stop and pop by Farmar halfway through the period put Maccabi up 45 – 41, but Belgacom Spirou and Mallet matched Maccabi shot for shot until two straight buckets at the end of the period put the Belgians up 54 – 50 at the buzzer.
The fourth quarter got underway with points by Hendrix and Eliyahu to tie the score, with the go-ahead basket scored by Blu (assist Ohayon), 57 – 54. Two ferocious dunks by Devin Smith gave Maccabi some breathing room, 62 – 56 with less than four minutes left in the game. But it was Maccabi’s brilliant defense, led by Guy Pnini and Ohayon, that really saved the day, with full court presses, steals, deflected passes, and plenty of hustle rattling the Belgians and giving up a mere five points in the quarter. In the end, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv came away with a hard-won 69 – 59 win over Belgacom Spirou of Charleroi.
Maccabi: Eliyahu 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Blu 12 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Ohayon 8 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals; Hendrix 8 points, 3 rebounds, James 6 points, 6 rebounds; Farmar 5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists; Schortsanitis 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist; Langford 4 points, 2 assists; Smith 4 points, 1 rebounds; Papaloukas 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Pnini 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals.
Leading scorers for Spirou: Mallett 18 points; Hill 15 points.