Hapoel defeated Maccabi 96-95 as the Reds took the Tel Aviv Derby in a hard fought battle that went right down to wire as the fans celebrated with the players on the Drive In Arena court into the night. J’Covan Brown was all-world for Danny Franco’s team as he scored 32 points and a ran the Hapoel offense to perfection over the course of the game as the Reds recorded their first win over Maccabi in three tries this season.
Xavier Munford, J’Covan Brown and Tomer Ginat set the tone early for the hosts as they took a 24-19 lead after the first quarter, but Wade Baldwin and John Dibartolomeo scored time after time from deep to take a slim 48-46 lead at halftime.
Jalen Adams became a factor for the yellow-and-blue in the third quarter with points from the outside and inside as Maccabi built up an 11-point lead but Brown was again at the center of attention as he helped drill down the yellow-and-blue lead to just 72-69 with ten minutes to play. Gil Beni and Chinanu Onuaku got busy as Brown scored a 3-point play down the stretch to knot the game up at 93-93 before Munford dialled up long distance to give the Reds the hard earned win in front of their faithful supporters.
Brown led all scorers with 32 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds, Onuaku added 16 points and Ginat scored 15 points in the win. Baldwin paced Maccabi with 29 points, Adams chipped in with 20 points and Dibartolomeo scored 18 points in the loss.
“This was great Israeli league basketball,” Hapoel coach Danny Franco began. “Whatever you’d want in a basketball game you had here in this one. There were great plays, talented players on both sides and plenty of action. Thanks to our depth we were able to stay in the game and we were able to come back from a double digit deficit with an 11-0 run in the third quarter to keep our heads above water. It’s a lot of fun and I’m very happy for the club and for our great fans.”
“It was a game of runs and we didn’t start well at both ends of the floor both defensively and offensively,” Maccabi bench boss Oded Katash said. “We didn’t know how to hold onto the lead that we were able to get and we have a lot to learn from this game going forward that we have to be more focused and we had to play tighter defense.”
Reds big man Chinanu Onuaku spoke about the victory, “I do whatever I can in the game to help my team win. I wanted to be able to do that in the first half but in the second half I was able to. There was a great atmosphere here and we got the best fan base in Israel and maybe in Europe. It’s always good to have them on your side.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv captain John Dibartolomeo reflected on the disappointing loss, “They got stops and when on transition which was the story for the game, we didn’t make plays and didn’t get stops. We spoke about trying to hold them to fewer points at halftime than we gave up in the first half and we didn’t do it.”
Xavier Munford put in a pair of baskets to get the game going for Hapoel Tel Aviv, while Tomer Ginat and J’Covan Brown also scored to give the hosts a 13-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Jarell Martin went from deep, Wade Baldwin dropped a pair of midrange jumpers, John Dibartolomeo dialled up long distance as did Martin once again for Maccabi Tel Aviv but the hosts stayed in front 24-19 after ten minutes of play.
Rafi Menco went in off the left side for a layup to begin the second quarter, Bar Timor responded with a 3-point play, Dibartolomeo drained a 3-pointer, JP Tokoto put down a monster alley-oop but Baldwin came back from deep as Danny Franco’s squad stayed ahead 31-28 with 6:13 remaining in the first half. Dibartolomeo went from downtown for a pair, Baldwin scored an acrobatic reverse layup, Ginat put in a 3-point play, Jaylen Hoard scored his first points of the game, Brown drilled home a pair of 3-pointers but Baldwin’s triple at the buzzer sent Oded Katash’s team in front 48-46 at halftime.
Dibartolomeo delivered the perfect ball for a Nebo alley-oop to start off the third quarter and then scored off the glass, Jalen Adams scored a floater and Baldwin added a 3-pointer to give Maccabi a 57-51 lead midway through the period. Munford and Brown put in layups, Menco scored a 3-point play, Adams knocked down a pair of corner 3-balls and then put in a 3-point play, Brown came back with one as well and a 3-pointer for good measure but Maccabi stayed in the lead 72-69 after thirty minutes of action.
Jaylen Hoard scored to get the fourth quarter underway, Baldwin went from the outside and the inside, Chinanu Onuaku scored in the paint, Bonzie Colson went from deep as did Gil Beni to keep Hapoel Tel Aviv hanging around down by only 1-point, 83-82 with 5:23 remaining in regulation team.
Onuaku out in a pair of free throws and added a floater, Adams answered, Munford scored at the other end, Colson drilled home a triple, Adams pulled up for a midrange, Onuaku got a hand on a Brown miss, Adams hit three from the free throw line, Brown scored a 3-point play to knot the score up at 93-93 but Munford nailed the game winning 3-pointer right over Dibartolomeo to give the Derby to the Reds.