By Amy Samin
For the fiftieth time in the history of the club, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv are Israeli Champions, following their decisive defeat of Maccabi Yachad Habonim Ashdod, 83 – 63. Keith Langford and Devin Smith led Maccabi’s scorers with 16 points apiece, and David Blu added 14. Yogev Ohayon snagged a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and was named MVP of the Final Four.
Head coach David Blatt’s starting lineup for the 85th and final game of the 2011 – 2012 season was made up of Keith Langford, Shawn James, Yogev Ohayon, Lior Eliyahu and Devin Smith. Israelis Ohayon and Eliyahu got the game off to a strong start for Maccabi, combining to give Maccabi a 7 – 2 lead after two and a half minutes. Josh Duncan and Alex Tyus responded for Ashdod, but Maccabi combined tough defense with points by James and David Blu to make it 13 – 6 with three minutes to go in the period. Free throws by Ashdod’s captain Meir Tapiro kept the team from the south close, and five straight points by Josh Carter gave Ashdod a 15 – 14 lead with just under a minute and a half left in the quarter; Guy Pnini responded from two point range off a dish from Langford. Carter again stepped up, but Langford answered with a jumper from the right side (assist Richard Hendrix) to end the quarter with Maccabi up 19 – 17.
Duncan put the lead back in Ashdod’s hands early in the second quarter, but in a matter of seconds Blu scored from the top of the arc (assist Pnini), then followed that up with another trey, this time off a cross-court dish from Ohayon, 25 – 20 Maccabi after just over two minutes in the period. Langford added an off-balance layup and Blu completed a hat trick of threes to set the score at 30 – 22. Tapiro scored a layup for Ashdod, which was seen and raised by Langford from downtown. Following another deuce by Tapiro, James rejected Tyus’s shot and Smith nailed a three of his own to put Maccabi’s lead in double digits, 36 – 26 just past the halfway mark in the period. Meanwhile, at the other end of the court, Maccabi’s intensity on defense rattled their opponents, who ended up throwing the ball away. With four minutes left in the quarter Smith sank another three pointer (Maccabi’s sixth in the period) off an assist by Pnini. The next several minutes saw both teams make trips to the charity stripe, but with thirty seconds to go before halftime, Tyus scored for Ashdod and Alon Stein sank a jumper (assist Langford) for Maccabi to end the half with the score 44 – 33.
Ashdod started the third quarter with renewed determination, but a hook shot by James and a block by Hendrix showed that Maccabi wasn’t about to slack off. Tyus scored twice for Ashdod, but Smith’s stop and pop and Langford’s points from beyond the arc (assist Ohayon) put Maccabi’s lead at 51 – 42 near the midway mark. Smith also added points from downtown, and Hendrix grabbed an offensive board and dished it to Smith, who managed to score a layup while falling to the floor, 56 – 48 Maccabi with four minutes left in the period. Tight defense by Maccabi (including a steal by Blu and rebounds by James and Langford) kept their opponents scoreless for the next two and a half minutes, while Pnini joined the three-fest with a bomb from the left side off a cross-court dish by Eliyahu, 59 – 48 Maccabi with just over a minute and a half left in the period. Tyus and Carter scored for Ashdod, but Eliyahu ended the period with a bucket in the paint, 61 – 53.
Hendrix opened the fourth quarter with points off a dime from Ohayon; the point guard then went on to score, himself. Hendrix and Blu pulled down defensive boards and Pnini drained another three off bullet passes from Hendrix to Eliyahu to Ohayon for the assist, 68 – 53. Hendrix scored a rare reverse layup after getting the dish from Pnini off a fake drive to the basket, and Blu added a stop and pop to make it a 19 point lead, 72 – 53 near the five minute mark. Smith drained his fourth three of the night and was answered in kind by Duncan for Ashdod. Langford scored from inside the arc, then followed that up with a three from near the same neighborhood to make it 80 – 60 with two minutes left in the game. The final points of the night came from Final Four MVP Ohayon, who sank Maccabi’s 15th three pointer of the night with just under a minute left, and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv claimed a 83 – 63 victory over Maccabi Yachad Habonim Ashdod, and the 2011 – 2012 Israeli Lotto League Championship.
Maccabi: Langford 16 points (4 of 6 from three), 5 rebounds, 3 assists; Smith 16 points (4 of 7 from three), 2 rebounds, 1 assist; Blu 14 points (3 of 5 from three), 5 rebounds, 1 steal; Ohayon 10 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals; Pnini 9 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound; James 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist; Eliyahu 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block; Hendrix 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist; Stein 2 points.
Top scorers for Ashdod: Tyus 16 points; Carter 14 points; Duncan 13 points; Tapiro 11 points.