By Amy Samin
A 116 – 86 away victory over Hapoel Afula enabled Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv to advance to the semifinals of the 2011 – 2012 Israeli Cup tournament. David Blu scored 25 points (5 of 6 from three point range), and Lior Eliyahu contributed 20 points. Shawn James was super-impressive with a triple double of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and no fewer than 11 blocks. Jon Scheyer also had a noteworthy game, scoring 16 points and 8 rebounds. The draw for the semifinals matchups will take place on Tuesday, January 17. The other teams that qualified for the Final Four are Hapoel Holon, Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion, and B.C. Habikaa.
Maccabi’s starting five were David Blu, Guy Pnini, Yogev Ohayon, Shawn James, and Keith Langford.
The score seesawed in the early minutes of the first period, with Maccabi taking a two point lead (points by James, Blu and Pnini, whose catch and shoot from outside the arc made it 11 – 8) and Afula tying the score until Blu scored again, this time from the left corner, making it 13 – 11 after four and a half minutes. Theo Papaloukas came into the game and scored in the paint off an assist from James, and Blu added his first points from downtown to boost Maccabi’s lead to 18 – 11. Lior Eliyahu and Langford added more points, and Langford and Richard Hendrix grabbed one steal apiece. The quarter ended with Maccabi leading 25 – 20.
The second quarter got underway with more points from Eliyahu and a mid-court steal/dunk by Hendrix to make it 32 – 26. Yoni Deri scored for Afula to narrow the gap, but another three by Blu (assist Langford) soon after set the score at 37 – 30 after four minutes of play in the period. Langford added two from the foul line and Blu dropped in a putback as Maccabi’s lead grew to 41 – 30. Jon Scheyer corralled a bad pass by Afula’s Guy Cohen, then went on to score from downtown (assist Papaloukas). A putback by James gave Maccabi a 48 – 38 lead with two minutes left in the half; Hendrix scored twice (both assists by Papaloukas) with a bucket by Langford in between, to send the teams into the break with Maccabi leading 54 – 40.
Afula continued to fight hard and play well, but Maccabi’s offense continued to run smoothly (a total of 29 assists on the night), as points by Papaloukas (assist Eliyahu), Blu and Scheyer (assist Hendrix) extended the visitor’s lead to 66 – 47 after three minutes. Many of Maccabi’s points were scored in the paint, with Eliyahu, James and Ohayon all working the lane, including a slick spin-and-in from James, who dominated at both ends of the court. Ohayon also added points after a steal, and with just over three minutes left in the period Maccabi led 78 – 56. Another bucket following a steal by Ohayon and a putback by Eliyahu gave Maccabi an 84 – 61 point lead going into the final period.
Ronny LeMelle scored for Afula at the start of the fourth quarter, but Blu responded with another trey from the left corner. James continued to send out rejection letters and also added a reverse dunk off a steal/assist from Papaloukas to make it 89 – 63 after two and a half minutes in the period. Scheyer, who put on a fine show from all over the court, added a couple of drives to the basket, Eliyahu scored off an oop that was delivered by Scheyer to Ohayon to Eliyahu. Hendrix slammed down a dunk to put Maccabi at the century mark, 100 – 72 halfway through the period. Maccabi went on to score another sixteen points in the final five minutes of the game, including more points from Eliyahu and Scheyer and two bombs from downtown by Alon Stein. Ohayon’s three with seconds left on the clock wrapped up a 116 – 86 romp for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over Hapoel Afula and secured Maccabi’s place in the Israeli Cup semifinals, which will take place in February.
Maccabi: Blu 25 points (5 of 6 from three point range), 4 rebounds; Eliyahu 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal; Scheyer 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals; James 12 points, 11 blocks, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Ohayon 11 points, 6 assists, 5 steals, 3 rebounds; Langford 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists; Hendrix 8 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals; Papaloukas 6 points, 7 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Stein 6 points; Pnini 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist.
Top scorers for Hapoel Afula: Thondique 20 points; LeMelle 16 points.