Bnei Herzliya dominated Maccabi Tel Aviv 97-81 to even up their semifinal series 1-1 setting up a decisive third game on Wednesday night for a trip to the Israel Basketball League finals. Chris Babb came back with a vengeance after a poor showing in game one as the guard scored as he pleased to pace the hosts who had six players in double digits to the 16-point victory.
Oren Aharoni’s team scored early and often to open up the game as Babb and Chinanu Onuaku owned an overmatched yellow-and-blue to take a 30-19 lead after the opening ten minutes while Maurice Kemp and Andy Van Vliet added points to offset Derrick Williams to go up 50-42 by halftime. Herzliya came out flying in the second half as Quinton Hooker, Sandy Cohen along with Babb bunked the lead up to 77-57 after thirty minutes of play as they cruised to the blowout win.
Babb led all scorers with 23 points, Van Vliet added 16 points, Quinton Hooker scored 14 points while Onuaku recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win and Maurice Kemp scored 13 points in the win. Williams scored 18 points, James Nunnally scored 12 points as Ante Zizic and Jake Cohen chipped in with 10 points each in the loss.
“We had a terrific game,” Bnei Herzliya coach Oren Aharoni began. “In fact, we felt that in the last game we were competitive but we weren’t there offensively. In this game, we were there and we should be proud. We are now at 1-1 in the series with one more game to go. I have to give credit to all of the players for having one of the greatest games in franchise history.”
“This wasn’t a good enough game from us on both sides of the court,” Maccabi coach Avi Even said. “We didn’t get into our offense well and we lost our confidence. Herzliya scored tough shots and it was like a snowball effect from that point on. We will learn from this game and come into game three ready to go.”
Game MVP Chris Babb spoke about what made the difference between the first two games, “It’s just about adjustments, a bad game or a couple of bad games isn’t the end of the world and not the end of the season. Our focus was to stay together and stay confident and that’s what we did. We played together and we stayed together.”
Maccabi guard Keenan Evans pointed out what the team needs to do in order to win the decisive third game, “Defense, it’s the only thing. We came in with pretty much the same game plan this time around but their role players were making shots. It’s a different arena and they may be used to it more but defense has to travel.”
Andy Van Vliet and Chinanu Onuaku opened the scoring for Bnei Herzliya while Ante Zizic responded at the other end, Chris Babb went right to the hoop and then went from the outside to give the hosts a 11-4 lead midway through the first quarter. Keenan Evans dropped a layup, Derrick Williams and Evans went from downtown, Onuaku, Sandy Cohen and Maurice Kemp all scored in the paint while Babb added a pair of 3-pointers to give Oren Aharoni’s team a 30-19 lead after ten minutes of play.
Williams began the second quarter with points from inside and from outside, Onuaku and Kemp hit jumpers, James Nunnally scored a pair of buckets in the paint but Onuaku answered as Herzliya stayed in front 36-29 with 5:35 left in the first half. Van Vliet scored off the glass, Babb scored a 3-point play, while Nunnally did the same at the other end of the floor, Quinton Hooker scored his first basket of the game, Babb came in off the baseline as Scottie Wilbekin found his first points of the game with a triple just the half came to an end with Herzliya in front 50-42.
Sandy Cohen and Hooker dialled up long distance to get the third quarter underway, Nunnally went from deep, Hooker and Babb scored, Zizic hit a baseline jumper but Van Vliet added points as well to give Herzliya a 67-49 lead midway through the period. Zizic put in points, Babb drilled home a triple, Kemp scored a 3-point play and added a deuce, Sorkin responded but the hosts bumped up their lead to 77-57 after thirty minutes of action.
Shawn Dawson went deep twice to get the fourth quarter going, Kemp added a bucket, Nunnally, Iftach Ziv scored and Oz Blayzer scored for Avi Even’s squad but Aharoni’s team stayed in front 86-69 with 5:58 remaining in regulation time. Hooker scored at will and Sandy Cohen went from deep to sew up the win and send the series back to Yad Eliyahu for a do or die game three.