Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion slipped by Maccabi Tel Aviv 92-90 as the Wine City squad picked up their first win of the season against one of the top two teams in the league. Guy Goodes’s team controlled the tempo from the get go thanks to strong play from D’Angelo Harrison, Oz Blayzer and Noam Dovrat but Angelo Caloiaro pulled Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s crew even at 88-88 late in the game. But clutch free throws by Harisson and a Scottie Wilbekin miss as time expired gave Rishon the victory.
Rishon Le’Zion came out on fire thanks to strong play by D’Angelo Harrison, Darryl Monroe and Oz Blayzer while Maccabi countered with 8 points from Deni Avdija and a pair of triples from Angelo Caloiaro but hosts led 27-24 after ten minutes of play. Zach Hankins got busy for Guy Goodes’s squad and Blayzer kept scoring as Rishon bumped up their lead to a dozen points 57-45 at halftime.
Noam Dovrat took center stage for Rishon in the 3rd quarter as the 17-year old kept finding the bottom of the basket while points by Amar’e Stoudemire, Yovel Zoosman and Caloiaro helped cut the lead to 77-69 in favor of hosts after thirty minutes of action. Rishon continued to control the game and bumped up the lead to 88-80 but Maccabi answered with an 8-0 run to knot the score up. However, D’Angelo Harrison scored 4 free throws in the clutch and Scottie Wilbekin missed a potential game winning 3-pointer at the buzzer as Rishon L’Zion pulled out the 92-90 win.
1) Congrats to Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion and Coach Guy Goodes for finally beating one of the top two clubs. This was something that he had been working on especially when he had a chance to bring in a player like Zach Hankins. Goodes has spoken about this numerous times whether it was at the press conference as the league was restarting or after the game in Jerusalem last week. There is definitely a theme for the coach and he understands what the change in personnel can do especially with a player like Hankins who was just on the Holy Land Hoops Show with The Sports Rabbi this week. That change was evident as he dominated both Amare Stoudemire and Othello Hunter. “Hankins provided us with a body in the paint. Like I said we needed to make a change at center because we had trouble with playing small ball with power forwards. It showed we needed someone who was physical and I am happy with the result. Last season Diamon Simpson made the difference for us in the Final 4 and now Zach gives us a lot of strength and power. We still have to figure out how to get him the ball at the right angles and use him more because he was a bit upset that he didn’t get the ball when Maccabi switched.” Bottom line as Goodes said, “It shows that we can finally beat a big team and from here we have to keep going and work on things like outside shooting as we get closer to the playoffs.”
2) D’Angelo Harrison is a trip, really. But he’s also a real baller too, and a pretty good one at that. The St. John’s product is a scorer and knows how to put the ball in the net any which way which is what he did in the win over Maccabi. Whether it was driving to the hoop or hitting the crucial free throw at the end of the game, Harrison was there. And he doesn’t back down from anyone. I always loved his play when he featured for Hapoel Gilboa Galil and was such an offensive threat for Ariel Beit Halachmi’s sward back them I was disappointed that he didn’t continue playing in Israel. But here he is, back and better than ever. “It was more the coach putting it in my hands and trusting me to do the right play,” said Harrison. “I think I got Adam (Ariel) a shot. I got Oz (Blayzer) a shot. I went to the line and made the free throws. Obviously it was kind of weird in the second half. Coach just said to keep fighting and we did that. We scrapped it out made the game really ugly and that’s what we were supposed to do.”
3) Maccabi Tel Aviv didn’t deserve to win the game, plain and simple. The Yellow & Blue were mentally not there and you could see it in their body language all game long. Whether it was Tyler Dorsey kicking the chairs on the bench, Othello Hunter who just came back from an injured back complaining on Twitter about the referees, Deni Avdija fouling out or the frustration that oozed on Amare Stoudemire’s face, Ioannis Sfairpoulos’s team just wasn’t there. “I think we are not mentally ready to play a tough game,” said the coach. Angelo Caloiaro, who led the Maccabi attack also talked about how the team needs to take these games more seriously, “We aren’t normally coming off of two months without doing anything and while this is like preseason, it can’t be it has to be more important than that.” I am sure Coach Sfairopoulos has let all of the players know that.