Maccabi Tel Aviv won its sixth straight game in all competitions to beat cellar dwellers Hapoel Gilboa Galil this evening 86-64 at Yad Eliyahu. Roman Sorkin (19 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block), Darrun Hilliard (19 points and 1 assist) and John DiBartolomeo (14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists) led the scoring for Maccabi, while Tony Carr (23 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists) and Rober Franks (18 points and 1 rebound) and Payton Willis (10 points and 3 rebounds) scored a majority of the visitors’ points.
After a rusty start for Maccabi in which they turned over the ball a couple of times, Hilliard hit the scoreboard with three 3-pointers and an assist to Sorkin for an 11-0 lead before Franks got his first points of the game to stop Maccabi’s run. However, another two 3-pointers after just under 5 minutes of play showed that Hilliard was going to make the most of the opportunity given to him by Katash tonight.
Jarell Martin (7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists) and Iftach Ziv (8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists) joined the party with 3s of their own, Maccabi taking a 29-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, going 7/11 from behind the arc as a team.
The second quarter started in the same fashion, with DiBartolomeo scoring a 3 on the first posession. Another 3 for Ziv 3:30 into the second quarter gave Maccabi a 39-15 lead. A Chad Brown dunk under the basket to make it 41-17 gave Gilboa Galil something for the highlights real, as well as giving their fans in the stadium a reward for making the trek to Tel Aviv.
Gilboa Galil then took advantage of a lapse in concentration by the hosts to score the last 8 points of the half, however Maccabi went into the main break with a commanding 43-27 lead.
London Perrantes (3 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists) made it 10 points without reply with a bucket at the start of the second half, before DiBartolomeo scored another 3-pointer to stop the visitors’ run.
However, Gilboa Galil slowly came back into the game, including through three 3-pointers for the frame from Willis – to get as close as within 2 points of Maccabi towards the end of the third quarter at 52-50 – but Maccabi took a 64-55 lead going into the final break after Wade Baldwin IV (8 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists) made 3 free throws following a foul from Amit Suss (3 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist) as he went for a half-court shot before the buzzer.
While Gilboa Galil continued to fight, Maccabi was just too strong in the end, with 7 last-quarter points to Sorkin and 6 last-quarter points to DiBartolomeo giving the league leaders the win.
“I think it’s very clear what happened – we started the game very well, really excellently and we mainly defended well,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said after the game. “There’s a tendency in games when you start like this in the first quarter – a 15-20 point lead – to play the score and not to continue to play basketball… We say to the players almost every day all the time, to play basketball and not the scores, that’s something very important, and unfortunately we fell on this point. We played the scores and we didn’t continue to play basketball. In the end we succeeded to find the focus and energy.”
Gilboa Galil coach, Ariel Beit Halachmi, was simply happy for his team to get through the game without any injuries: “From our side we got through the game safely. We’re looking forward to our game of the season next Tuesday [against Kiryat Ata]. We finished without injured players. Essentially, the game finished after the first quarter. Sure, we did close the margin, however the game was still in Maccabi’s control. We can’t take anything good from this game, other than the fact that we finished the game without injuries.”
The “game of the season” against Kiryat Ata is important, given that Gilboa Galil is currently two games behind their opponent.
For Maccabi, they will travel to France for their next game, a clash against ASVEL Villeurbanne, which will be a chance for the Yellow & Blue to close in on securing a EuroLeague playoff spot.