By Amy Samin
After trailing for most of the game and starting the final quarter down by seven, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv launched a massive comeback in which they outscored the hosts 29 – 13 and earned an 89 – 80 victory over arch-rivals Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem at Malha Arena in the nation’s capital. Devin Smith led all scorers with 25 points and Guy Pnini added 15. David Blu and Lior Eliyahu added 13 and 11, respectively. Shawn James, who played a major role in Maccabi’s comeback, dominated the paint with 5 huge blocks which upped his per game average to 2 and put him in the number one slot in the Israeli League for shots blocked.
Maccabi’s starters were Devin Smith, Keith Langford, Lior Eliyahu, Richard Hendrix and Yogev Ohayon. Jerusalem opened strong and grabbed an early 11 – 5 lead. A three by David Blu and points by Smith made it 13 – 10 with four minutes left in the period, but Jerusalem continued to protect their lead. Guy Pnini made it a two point game with a shot from downtown, but Jerusalem responded with a 9 – 0 run. Back-to-back three pointers by Smith and Blu ended the period with the hosts up 26 – 23.
The game continued to be a close-fought one in the second quarter, and Maccabi took a 31 – 29 lead near the halfway mark. Jerusalem stayed close, retaking the lead with just under a minute and a half left in the period. Smith tied things up at 43 with a baseline layup, but a massive three by Yuval Naimy gave Jerusalem a 49 – 45 advantage going into the halftime break.
Early in the third quarter Maccabi tied the score several times but was unable to grab the lead. Halfway through the period Jerusalem led 56 – 54. Points by John Thomas and Ramel Bradley for Jerusalem boosted that to 62 – 54 with three minutes left in the quarter. Smith and Eliyahu scored for Maccabi but the hosts wrapped up the period with a 67 – 60 lead.
Smith’s three together with a dunk by Shawn James at the start of the fourth quarter were a sign of things to come. Maccabi went on a 23 – 3 rampage that included excellent defense (blocks, steals, traps and broken plays) and points by Blu, James, Smith, and Pnini. By the time Jerusalem managed to get back in the game, Maccabi was leading 83 – 70 with just over three minutes on the clock. At that point there wasn’t much hosts Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem could do except watch Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv walk away with an 89 – 80 win in the final game of the regular season.
Maccabi: Smith 25 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; Pnini 15 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Blu 13 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal; Eliyahu 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist; James 9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks, 1 steal; Langford 8 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Ohayon 6 points, 4 assists; Hendrix 2 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal.
Top scorers for Hapoel: Naimy 22 points; Strawberry 17 points.