Hapoel demolished Maccabi 93-75 to stave off elimination in game three of the Tel Aviv Derby quarterfinal series. The victory gave Danny Franco’s team some life after falling into a 0-2 hole after the first two games of the series which will now head back to the Drive In Arena for game 4.
The shorthanded reds pummelled the yellow-and-blue from the get go as Bar Timor and Idan Zalmanson picked up the slack for injured James Young and J’Covan Brown who was taken to the hospital in the second quarter after taking a hit to his neck. Derrick Williams cut the Hapoel lead to just 9 points, 50-41 with a lucky heave at the halftime buzzer. However, Timor, Zalmanson and JP Tokoto continued the onslaught in the third quarter as Maccabi’s defense was nowhere to be found to run away with the 18-point win.
Game MVP Bar Timor scored 26 points, Tokoto added 18 points and Zalmanson scored 15 points in the victory. John Dibartolomeo paced Avi Even’s team with 18 points while Keenan Evans and James Nunnally scored 12 points a piece in the loss.
“I have a lot of pride from this game after the disappointment of the first two,” Hapoel coach Danny Franco said. “We had a rough couple of months and things hadn’t been going our way. This was a win that we battled for and I can say all of the cliches, but everyone took a step up as we won this game all together.”
“We lost and we didn’t come to play the way we wanted to and planned to,” a disappointed Maccabi bench boss Avi Even said. “Hapoel came with aggressiveness and they beat us in all parameters. We had to bring our energy and intensity and unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalize on the momentum and our quality at both ends of the floor. We will come into the next game with a different attitude to win.”
Reds big man Idan Zalmanson reflected on the victory, “We have a team that is tough to break even when we were down 0-2 in this series. We knew that this game would be difficult without James Young and everyone played a part. We are a team with character and I can guarantee that we will leave everything on the court. This series isn’t over.”
Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo spoke about the game from his point of view, “It’s a disappointing and frustrating night for us and it was a shame as to how we performed. A lot of our Issues are beyond basketball which are the things we really need to focus on. When that film session ends we need to be on to the next game. We’re up 2-1 and we need one more win or move onto the next round and that’s our ultimate goal.“
Roman Sorkin opened the scoring for Maccabi Tel Aviv while Josh Owens and Bar Timor countered for Hapoel Tel Aviv but James Nunnally went from deep to give the hosts a 5-4 lead midway through the first quarter. JP Tokoto scored in the paint, Derrick Williams and Idan Zalmanson traded triples, Keenan Evans scored a pair of baskets, Owens went in for an alley-oop, Zalmanson scored a couple of buckets as did Oz Blayzer but the Reds grabbed a 25-18 lead after ten minutes of play.
Egor Koulechov and John Dibartolomeo traded 3-pointers to get the second quarter underway, Timor added another for Danny Franco’s team, Zalmanson easily scored a couple of buckets in the paint to bump up their lead to 35-21 with five minutes left in the first half. Jake Cohen found points inside as did Scottie Wilbekin, Koulechov scored a reverse layup, Timor hit two more 3-pointers, Wilbekin and Sorkin scored for Avi Even’s squad, J’Covan Brown scored his first points of the game while Dibartolomeo and Williams went from deep but Hapoel took a 50-41 advantage into halftime.
Nunnally opened the third quarter with a layup, Tokoto scored one of his own, Sorkin put points in the paint as did Gil Beni, while Bar Timor scored yet another 3-pointer to keep Hapoel in front 57-47 midway through the frame. Zalmanson put in an easy basket, Tokoto scored 3-pointer and dunked as well while Timor scored another layup high off the glass and added a triple, Sorkin scored a deuce, Evans went for three but the Reds took a commanding 78-55 lead after thirty minutes of play.
Evans went from deep to begin the fourth quarter, Owens scored in the paint, Tokoto hit a jumper, Nunnally went from long distance, Owens dunked over Blayzer, Koulechov added a bucket and Tokoto scored to go up 88-65 with 4:38 left in regulation time. Dibartolomeo hit a 3-pointer but it was too little too late as Hapoel raced off with the 18-point win to send the series back to the Drive In Arena for game 4.