Maccabi Tel Aviv eased by Hapoel Eilat 88-72 to take a 1-0 lead in their best of 3 semifinal series. Omri Casspi led the way over the first half while Yovel Zoosman did the same during the final frame as the yellow-and-blue controlled the boards to seal the win.
After a close first quarter in which Casspi turned back the clock, Scottie Wilbekin and Oz Blayzer drilled home triples to open up a double digit lead at the half. Maccabi continued to score as Zoosman scored 14 of his points over the final frame going 4/4 from deep to wrap up the victory.
Casspi led the way with 17 points, Zoosman added 16 points and Ante Zizic scored 11 points in the win. Prather led all scorers with 24 points, Joe Ragland chipped in with 14 points and Derek Ogbeide scored 10 points in the loss.
Omri Casspi had the hot hand early on with a quick 7 points for Maccabi Tel Aviv while Markel Brown put down a reverse dunk and Ben Carter scored a pair of buckets as the hosts led 11-8 midway through the first quarter. Chris Jones scored two baskets in the paint and Casspi went from deep but Joe Ragland and Casey Prather led Hapoel Eilat on a 7-0 run to keep pace with the yellow-and-blue who led 22-21 after ten minutes.
Ante Zizic scored inside, Jones found points on the outside as did Prather for Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad as they still trailed the defending champions 29-24 with 6:54 left in the second quarter. Casspi added a putback, but Brown with another highlight reel dunk and Ragland with a layup kept Eilat close 33-28 with 4:28 to fo in the half. Casspi and Prather traded hoops, Oz Blayzer scored on a fast break while Scottie Wilbekin and John DiBartolomeo drilled home their triples to give Maccabi a 45-34 advantage at halftime.
Wilbekin opened the third quarter with another 3-pointer, Yovel Zoosman added a layup off a steal, Casspi with a deuce and Zizic with points inside as Derek Ogbeide put in a couple of dunks but Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad remained in front 57-43 midway through the frame. Ragland and Hunter traded buckets inside, Jonathan Skoljebrand scored a 3-pointer but so did Jones at the other end as DiBartolomeo added a layup to give Maccabi a 66-52 lead after thirty minutes.
Othello Hunter stole the ball and put in a layup to get the fourth quarter underway and Zoosman dialled up long distance twice to extend the lead to 74-57 with 5:24 left in the period. Prather went from downtown but TJ Cline scored a pair of baskets, Zizic added a bucket in the paint but Roi Huber scored a corner 3-ball and Ragland added a layup to pull to within 80-68 with 2:49 remaining in regulation time. Zoosman and Prather each scored triples, Zoosman added a layup and yet another 3-pointer to help Maccabi to a 1-0 series lead.