By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv came away from a tough game against Maccabi Bazan Haifa with an 87 – 81 victory, to kick off what will be one of the busiest parts of the season for the team, who will play 16 games between now and the end of March. Keith Langford led Maccabi’s scorers with 17 points and 5 assists, Yogev Ohayon scored 14 points, Guy Pnini contributed 13 and David Blu added 12 points. Sixteen year old Idan Zalmanson played in his first premier league game for Maccabi, scoring 2 points. Lior Eliyahu and Shawn James did not play due to injury. Sofo Schortsanitis and Demond Mallet were not included on the roster for the Israeli League game.
Coach Blatt gave the starting positions to team captain Tal Burstein, Yogev Ohayon, Devin Smith, Richard Hendrix, and Keith Langford. Haifa came roaring out of the starting gate and grabbed an 11 – 4 lead in the first three minutes, mainly on points from Tyler Wilkerson. But two points and two assists by Burstein (both great passes to David Blu) soon tied the score at 11. After Maccabi’s defense stopped Haifa with a shot clock violation, it was Blu from downtown (assist Langford) who put the lead into Maccabi’s hands for the first time in the game, with four minutes left in the period. Wilkerson and Sylven Landesberg scored for the visitors, but Burstein drained a three and newcomer Idan Zalmanson, playing his first game in a Maccabi uniform, added two points to make it 19 – 14 with two minutes on the clock. Hendrix added a finger roll and Blu scored on an inbounds pass, but it was Theo Papaloukas’ layup and 1 that closed out the quarter, with Maccabi leading 26 – 22.
The second quarter opened with a trey from the right corner by Jon Scheyer (assist Papaloukas), but Haifa responded with five straight points. A two pointer by Blu was followed by a steal by Scheyer, who dished to Guy Pnini for the fastbreak layup, 33 – 27 Maccabi. Papaloukas scored and Hendrix added a mid-range jumper, but it was Pnini’s three from near the top of the arc (assist Smith) that put Maccabi’s lead in double digits, 40 – 29 four minutes into the period. Haifa began to close the gap, but Pnini added another three, from the left corner this time, making it 43 – 35 as the teams went into a time out. The visitors put the break to good use, going on a 10 – 2 run and tying the score at 45 with less than a minute left in the period. A free throw gave Haifa a one point lead, but Burstein also scored once from the foul line to tie the score at 46 – 46 as the half ended.
The score remained close through the first half of the third quarter, until Haifa took a 52 – 50 lead with just over five minutes left in the period. Blu found Langford under the basket to kick off a nine point scoring run for the guard that put Maccabi back on top 59 – 56 with just over two minutes remaining in the quarter. Ohayon added three from the left corner, but Wilkerson and his teammate Avi Ben-Chimol scored for Haifa to tie the score once again. Two free throws from Langford ended the period with Maccabi leading 64 – 62.
Langford, Ohayon, and Smith all scored early in the fourth quarter to make it 71 – 62 Maccabi, but Carlos Powell and Ben-Chimol combined for 14 points over the next two and a half minutes to keep Haifa in contention, 76 – 74 Maccabi. With two and a half minutes left in the game Ben-Chimol put the lead back in Haifa’s hands, 80 – 78. Ohayon stepped up for Maccabi, scoring six straight points while the defense went into overdrive, forcing turnovers and putting the stops on Haifa’s offense. Two final free throws by Langford put a lock on the 87 – 81 victory for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over Maccabi Bazan Haifa.
Maccabi: Langford 17 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Ohayon 14 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Pnini 13 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Blu 12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists; Hendrix 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal; Burstein 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Papaloukas 7 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds; Scheyer 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Smith 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists; Zalmanson 2 points.
Top scorers for Haifa: Smith 21 points; Ben-Chimol and Wilkerson 14 points each.