By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Bennet Cantù by a score of 75 – 60, with a margin nearly double that of the Italians over Maccabi in the teams’ first meeting last week. David Blu led all scorers for Maccabi with 14 points, and Lior Eliyahu and Keith Langford contributed 12 points each. Yogev Ohayon was named game MVP for his excellent all-around effort. The win puts Maccabi in second place in their Euroleague Top 16 group.
Coach Blatt’s starters were Richard Hendrix, Lior Eliyahu, Demond Mallet, Yogev Ohayon and Keith Langford. The opening minutes of the game were close, as points by Hendrix and Eliyahu were matched by the visitors; after two and a half minutes the score was tied at 5. The next two minutes saw Maccabi power up on offense, and points by Eliyahu, Ohayon (assist Mallet), and Hendrix with a precision putback made it 11 – 5 near the halfway mark in the quarter. Cantù was able to take the lead, 12 – 11 with two and a half left in the period, but David Blu and Mallet put the lead back in Maccabi’s hands and the defense shut down the visitors; the quarter ended with Maccabi up 17 – 14.
Maccabi opened up a 22 – 16 lead off points by Blu (assist Theo Papaloukas) in the first minute of the second period, causing Cantù to call for a timeout. Giorgi Shermadini scored twice from the field and once from the foul line to put the visitors within one, but a dunk by Langford and a fastbreak layup by Ohayon on a steal by Devin Smith seemed to give the home team some breathing room. A three pointer by Gianluca Basile nearly erased it, 26 – 24 after four minutes of play in the period, but Blu delivered from downtown (assist Ohayon) to keep the balance. Bullet-like passes between Mallet and Blu kept the Italians scrambling and ended with a long deuce by Mallet to make it 31 – 26 Maccabi just past the five minute mark in the period. Basile cut loose with seven straight points that put the visitors on top 33 – 31, but Eliyahu responded with a pair of free throws, a dunk, and a spin-and-in shot that put Maccabi up 37 – 33 with a minute and a half left in the half. The Italians were able to grab back the lead as time ran out, 41 – 39.
The second half opened with excellent play by Ohayon and Eliyahu, including three defensive rebounds and a blocked shot, as well as points from both Israelis that brought the score to 44 – 41 Maccabi after two minutes. A classic fadeaway by Blu (assist Langford) was followed by a trey from Smith off a dish by Hendrix, and two points each from the charity stripe by Smith and Hendrix put Maccabi’s lead in double digits, 53 – 43 with just over three minutes remaining in the period. Maccabi’s defense was phenomenal in its intensity, with blocked shots, plenty of rebounds, deflected passes, and scrapping for the ball combining to hold Cantù to a mere five points in the period, all of which came from the foul line. Meanwhile, Hendrix contributed four more points, Blu added an acrobatic spin-and-in, and Sofo Schortsanitis sank a layup and dropped a dime on Smith to end the third quarter with Maccabi leading by a very comfortable 62 – 46.
The Italians weren’t quite ready to concede at the start of the fourth quarter, and staged a 9 – 1 scoring run to pull within eight, 63 – 55 four minutes into the period. Langford downed a stop-and-pop on the right side, then added points off the glass with an and 1 chaser to give Maccabi some breathing room, 68 – 55. Shermadini and Maarten Leunen scored from the free throw line, but once again Cantù struggled against Maccabi’s defense, failing to score again from the field until the final minute of the game. A steal and coast-to-coast dunk by Blu wrapped up the 75 – 60 win for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over Bennet Cantù in week 4 of the Euroleague Top 16, putting them in second place in their group.
Maccabi: Blu 14 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Eliyahu 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block; Langford 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Hendrix 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists; Ohayon 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; Smith 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist; Mallet 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 assist; Papaloukas 3 points, 2 assists; Schortsanitis 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists; Pnini 1 point, 1 rebound.
Top scorers for Cantù: Basile 20 points; Shermadini 15 points.