Maccabi Tel Aviv downed Fenerbahce 78-74 thanks to captain John Dibartolomeo’s fabulous performance to keep their Euroleague postseason hopes alive and move to 14-13 on the season as they now head to play Anadolu EFES on Friday in yet another critical contest. The yellow-and-blue faithful welcomed back Scottie Wilbekin who is now a member of the Turkish team with song and celebration, but at the end of the night it was Oded Katash’s team who were the ones to take the victory.
Fenerbahce jumped all over Maccabi to take an early 15-3 lead with the help of Dyshawn Pierre and Nigel Hayes-Davis. But little by little Katash’s adjustments paid off as John Dibartolomeo, Jake Cohen and Roman Sorkin came off the bench to provide the much needed character and guile to take a 43-39 into the second half. The trio of Israelis continued to pace the yellow-and-blue while Lorenzo Brown, Wade Baldwin and Bonzie Colson all scored to stop Nick Calathes and Marko Guduric’s efforts and take the key home win.
Brown led all scorers with 21 points, Baldwin chipped in with 15 points and Dibartolomeo added 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in the victory. Hayes-Davis scored 16 points, Pierre added 15 points and Johnathan Motley scored 12 points in the defeat.
“We put a lot of effort [into the game] after a really bad start,” Katash said following the game. “We showed character twice: after the bad start, a really bad start. We got down, no energy, but we found the way to fight back and also when they came back in the fourth quarter. We stayed there, stayed positive. I am really proud of the guys; we were fighting. We have to be consistent, the EuroLeague is challenging. It is the top competition!”
“I think that the second quarter affected us a lot,” Dimitrios Itoudis began. “We have seen that Maccabi has a lot of big plays individually. With only 10 assists, we couldn’t control that second quarter and the game slipped out of our hands. The players fought back, we managed to tie the game and it could have gone a different way, but congratulations to Maccabi.”
Game MVP John Dibartolomeo also reflected on the win, ”I think we got stops. They made a run in the fourth quarter. They are such a talented team, they have so many weapons, but in the end, we got enough stops and enough rebounds to come out with a win, and it was a really important game for us. I tried to play with energy and tried to be aggressive when I can, and I tried to help the team in any way I can. Tonight, the ball came to me a little more, and I am happy I was able to help.”
While Scottie Wilbekin was treated to a hero’s welcome it was Fenerbahce’s Dyshawn Pierre who took full advantage of the Maccabi Tel Aviv’s porous defense as he hit his shots from the outside and on the inside. Nigel Hayes-Davis also scored easily for the visitors while Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin tried to keep the yellow-and-blue close but ended the first quarter down 25-17.
Jonathan Motley got busy in the paint for Dimitrios Itoudis’s team but layups by Jake Cohen and John Dibartolomeo plus a Jarell Martin triple and a Roman Sorkin dunk cut the lead down to 31-28 midway through the second quarter. Dibartolomeo drained a 3-pointer, Hayes-Davis responded while Martin scored and Brown put in a 3-point play to give Oded Katash’s team a 43-39 lead at halftime.
Sorkin and Baldwin filled the basket for Maccabi to begin the third quarter, but Nick Calathes and Motley responded but the yellow-and-blue stayed in front 54-51 with five minutes left in the period. Martin and Motley traded buckets, Hayes-Davis and Colson did the same but Dibartolomeo drilled a triple to end the quarter to give the hosts a 61-56 lead after thirty minutes of play.
Colson went from deep to open the fourth quarter, a parade of Maccabi players went to the line, Marko Guduric scored a 3-pointer but Colson hit an off balance jumper to give the yellow-and-blue a 71-61 lead with 4:49 left in regulation time. Calathes and Guduric nailed 3-pointers, Baldwin scored a 3-point play, Guduric came back with a layup to pull to within a point, but Brown and Baldwin both hit a pair of free throws to wrap up the win.