Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Nahariya 86-65 as they remained perfect in Israel Winner League action. The northern squad tried to stay close to Ioannis Sfairpoulos’s squad but the yellow-and-blue’s quality overwhelmed Danny Franco’s overmatched team. Deni Avdija earned Most Valuable Player honors with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, Jake Cohen scored 14 points, Elijah Bryant added 12 points while John DiBartolomeo chipped in with 10 points and 5 assists. Jerel McNeal led Nahariya with 17 points and Jeff Adrien scored 14 points in the loss.
Nahariya raced out to a quick 7-0 lead as Jerel McNeal scored five points out of the gate forcing Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairpoulos to call an early timeout to settle his troops. McNeal continued to lead the northern squad but Tarik Black, Jake Cohen and a monster dunk by Deni Avdija gave the yellow-and-blue a 20-14 lead after ten minutes.
Tony Gaffney scored six points for Nahariya to open up the second quarter but Cohen answered back for Maccabi to keep them in front 26-25 midway through the frame. Omri Casspi scored a pair of buckets while Avdija used the glass to hit a jumper and sent a perfect pass to Dorsey who slammed the ball home in front of Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti who was in attendance scouting the potential 2020 NBA Lottery Draft pick as the hosts took a 41-31 advantage into halftime.
Avdija continued to impress with a triple, assist and a steal for Maccabi but a Travis Warech 3-pointer and Jeff Adrien’s 6 points kept Danny Franco’s team hanging around halfway through the third quarter with the yellow-and-blue holding a 51-44 lead. Avdija put down another dunk while John DiBartolomeo hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to send Maccabi into the fourth quarter ahead 62-50.
Elijah Bryant scored a pair of buckets and Yovel Zoosman dunked off a steal while DiBartolomeo and Cohen continued to score as Maccabi kept increasing their lead throughout the fourth quarter and put the finishing touches on a 86-65 victory.
Before we get to the 3-Pointers, I want to promote what Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Jake Cohen is doing during the month of November as he grows a mustache to raise awareness about Movember and raises money for Men’s Health Issues. “I’m working with a Movember foundation and I’m trying to raise some money for a very good cause.” If you want to help contribute click on the following LINK to be a part of the movement! Cohen’s teammate Quincy Acy has already donated $250, who else will join in!
Now to the 3-Pointers
1) Deni Avdija was masterful in front of Sam Presti the Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager who was in Tel Aviv to watch the prodigy. Dunking, dishing, stealing, court vision, rebounding and the list goes on and on and on. It’s as if he raises his game and knows exactly what an NBA court wants to see from him. Whether it was a bounce pass of which he had a pair of beauties, a cross course laser beam or a pair of monster dunks with a little bit of mustard as a finish, Avdija is going to be a winner in the world’s best league next year. We’ll be admiring him from about 5,000 miles away in under 12 months of all goes well as Israelis will fly across the sea to watch him play on the grandest stage there is.
2) How is Avdija has he been handling the situation of having NBA scouts and executives coming in and out of Yad Eliyahu? Coach Sfairpoulos explained, “It’s hard and he has to stay concentrated. Today was Oklahoma City, last week was the Los Angeles Lakers and next week is the San Antonio Spurs. He has to stay focused and follow the plan. The coaching staff is there for him to help him keep his concentration and make sure that he is not thinking about who is or who is not watching. He knows he has to play good basketball and follow the plan offensively and defensively and I am happy as to how he played today.” Jake Cohen also spoke about how Avdija, “I think he’s doing a great job. He’s working hard and he’s not trying to do too much. I think he played really well against Nahariya. Obviously the stats show that but he did a lot of good things defensively that don’t necessarily show up in the box score. I’m really proud of him. Every time took his time and was under control he makes great decisions with the ball but he’s 18 and he’s not going to be perfect but he’s doing a great job.”
3) Quincy Acy looks to be getting into the swing of things over the past two games while Tyler Dorsey is also looking mighty fine. The pair scored 8 and 9 points respectively and looked more and more a part of the team. They say patience is a virtue, well that’s also for basketball players as well. Everyone had to show a bit of patience to finally see the duo of ex-NBA players show that they can play here in Europe and they are doing just that. Coach Sfairpoulos commented on how he sees the new players integrating into the team, “It is according to the players experience and we want all the players to be ready and play well. I feel they will be solid after one month but I’m very happy how they are participating. Tyler is playing with confidence and Quincy has been great both offensively and defensively.” Cohen took it a step further about the importance of the new players being a part of the squad, “No off nights at Maccabi. It’s important for the new guys to get their rhythm and understand that it’s tough to go back and forth between the Euroleague and the Israeli League. The schedule doesn’t give you a break and we played a good team in Nahariya and we came out in top, that’s the most important thing.”
Arik Alfasi was in attendance for the game tonight as his Hapoel Eilat faces the Yellow & Blue on Sunday night in a do or die Israel State Cup Round of 16 matchup. I spoke to him in the hallways of Yad Eliyahu and he said, listen they are really good. Yes, Maccabi is really good and they are playing incredible basketball right now, in fact unstoppable basketball. Whether it’s in Israel or in Europe, Coach Sfairpoulos’s squad look like they can beat anyone and everyone right now. Hopefully for them that will continue with a number of huge continental clashes coming up next week against Baskonia, Milano and Barcelona. Of course before they even get there they have to play Alba Berlin, Eilat and a League game against Hapoel Beer Sheva.
Nahariya’s Tony Gaffney talked about what he saw from a Maccabi team that beat his team by 21 points, “They are one of the most fundamentally sound teams in Europe. That’s a really good basketball team. They execute well, they’re extremely deep and we didn’t put in a full 40 minutes to stay in the game. If you don’t do that then this is what happens. They are playing like a well oiled machine. If you relax and we did for many minutes you’ll pay for it.” Coach Ioannis Sfairpoulos wrapped up the victory as well, “We had a very good game and played very well on defense allowing only 65 points, we moved the ball well and had very good cooperation between the players. We kept Nahariya’s main players in low scoring and that’s why they only scored 65 points.”