By Amy Samin
The Halloween night game at Nokia Arena was filled with thrills and chills. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv pulled out a dramatic 87 – 85 win over Barak Netanya in a hard-fought game that could have gone either way. The day was saved by Sofoklis Schortsanitis who dominated in the paint, and Guy Pnini aka the King of Clutch, who came through with – among other things – three straight three pointers in the fourth quarter. David Blu added 14 key points, and Yogev Ohayon’s 11 included the go-ahead layup in the final seconds of the game. On Thursday Maccabi faces off against a tough (and undefeated so far) Real Madrid in round three of the Euroleague.
“They played an exceptional game,” said Maccabi’s head coach David Blatt of opponents Barak Netanya. “We weren’t so good… Pnini is a winner. He’s always there in the crucial moments, that’s why he’s Guy Pnini. Unlike in other games where we didn’t play well in the fourth quarter, tonight we won that quarter. We functioned well in one period, and not well in the other three because of Netanya. I don’t want to make excuses. I’m happy that Sofo played; he needs to learn how to avoid making dumb fouls and he did that tonight. That’s progress.”
Lior Eliyahu, Jordan Farmar, Yogev Ohayon, Sofo Schortsanitis, and Keith Langford started the game for Maccabi. The visitors got off to a strong start and took a 6 – 3 lead on points by Brian Asbury and Christian Burns. Ohayon and Eliyahu flipped the score to 9 – 8, Maccabi after four minutes of play in the period. Netanya managed to tie the score at 15, but Pnini quickly responded with a three pointer from the right wing. Netanya retook the lead, 21 – 18, with two and a half minutes left, but once again Maccabi (or more precisely, David Blu) scored again from downtown. The first quarter ended with Netanya up by one, 24 – 23.
Maccabi got off to a good start in the second quarter, taking a 31 – 24 lead off points by Sofo and team captain Tal Burstein (including a trey and a steal + layup). Netanya couldn’t get through Maccabi’s tough defense, and a three pointer from the right corner by Farmar extended Maccabi’s lead to 36 – 26 halfway through the period. Netanya woke up and went on a scoring run of their own, closing to within one, 40 – 39 with two minutes left until halftime. Maccabi was able to open things up a little, and went into the break leading 46 – 41.
Although Maccabi scored first in the third period, Netanya rose to the occasion and pulled within three, 48 – 45 in the first two minutes. Sofo continued to battle for points in the paint, but Netanya shifted into high gear; at the mid-point of the quarter they tied the score at 52. Points by Ohayon were seen and raised by Jerome Randle and company for Netanya, and the period ended with the visitors on top, 61 – 54.
The visitor’s lead swelled to double digits at the top of the fourth quarter, but a bucket and 1 by Pnini cut that lead to seven. Points by Blu on the inbounds helped, as did points from the charity stripe by Sofo and Blu. A brilliant fake drive to the basket turned assist by Ohayon resulted in a dunk by Sofo, who also drained the point after to put Maccabi back on top, 66 – 64, eight minutes into the period. Asbury tied things back up for Netanya, but Pnini quickly scored a basket on the inbounds, then the King of Clutch followed that with three straight threes, making it 78 – 72 Maccabi.
Blu added another of his trademark catch and shoots from outside the arc to set the score at 81 – 75 with three minutes left in the game. Netanya refused to give up, and kept scoring until they retook the lead, 85 – 84 with 43 seconds on the clock. Ohayon’s drive to the basket put Maccabi up by one, and Langford’s point from the foul line put the cherry on top. Blu’s crucial defensive rebound ensured the victory, and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Barak Netanya 87 – 85.
Maccabi: Pnini 20 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists; Schortsanitis 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks; Blu 14 points, 7 rebounds; Ohayon 11 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds; Eliyahu 6 points, 4 rebounds; Farmar 6 points, 5 assists; Burstein 5 points, 5 rebounds; Langford 3 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists; James 2 points, 2 rebounds.
Top Scorer’s for Netanya: Burns 25 points; Hackmon 19 points; Asbury 18 points; Randle 17 points.