Mac TA, Jerusalem win in continental action

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Buducnost 81-76 on Wednesday night to improve its Euroleague record to 6-11, while Hapoel Jerusalem crushed the Antwerp Giants 92-72 in Champions League action at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena to improve its record to 8-2 in the European competition and advance to the round-of-16.

The yellow-and-blue’s former point guard Norris Cole was the star of the show and scored Buducnost’s first 10 points. However, Maccabi’s clutch shooting and tight fourth-quarter defense helped Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad come out on top. Scottie Wilbekin led Maccabi with 16 points, Tarik Black added 12 points while DeAndre Kane dropped 11 points in the win. John Dibartolomeo nailed a pair of three-pointers late in the third quarter to move the momentum in Maccabi’s direction.

Cole finished with 25 points, while shooting 10-of-14 from the field in defeat. He was welcomed back to Yad Eliyahu with a special presentation as the fans gave him a standing ovation for helping Maccabi win the Israel Basketball Super League title last season.

The accolades certainly helped Cole set the tone early as his 10 early points propelled Buducnost to an 18-12 lead after the first quarter. Kane tried to keep Maccabi close with six points, and Alex Tyus and Black pulled the hosts to within three points (37-34) after 20 minutes, though Cole continued his scoring outburst to raise his game-high total to 18 points heading into the break.

Maccabi cut the Buducnost lead to just one point (60-59) after three quarters thanks to Dibartolomeo’s pair of threes.

Wilbekin and Kane scored big buckets as Buducnost’s NBA big man prospect Goga Bitadze and James Bell fouled out for the visitors. Yovel Zoosman, Johnny O’Bryant and Wilbekin’s three-pointers soon gave Maccabi a 75-68 advantage as it wrapped up a narrow five-point victory before heading to Moscow for a date with CSKA on Friday night.

Maccabi captain Dibartolomeo spoke about the importance of the victory to The Jerusalem Post.

“Every win is important especially when we are able to do it in front of our home crowd,” said Dibartolomeo. “I was proud of the team for continuing to fight from start to finish despite some lapses on the offense end. Our defense is what separated us tonight and is key for us moving forward in the right direction.”

Cole was happy with his performance, despite the losing outcome.

“I was excited to be back here in Tel Aviv,” said Cole following the game. “I was able to see all the familiar faces and to be back in this arena where I played a lot of games was great where I had a lot of points, a lot of stops, a lot of steals and a lot of fun including a championship. It was fun to be back.”

Maccabi will play its second Euroleague game of the week when it visits CSKA Moscow tonight in Russia. The yellow-and-blue will look to win both games in a double week for the first time since the competition moved to the current 30-game format.

However, that won’t be an easy task as third-place CSKA’s star-laden squad – which includes Nando de Colo, Sergio Rodriguez and Will Clyburn – holds a 13-4 record and is 6-0 at home.

In fact, Maccabi hasn’t won at CSKA since February 12, 2004, when current Zalgiris coach Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 25 points and Maccabi’s general manager Nikola Vujcic recorded a double-double. But the game will always be remembered for Anthony Parker’s fade-away three-point jumper at the buzzer to steal the victory for the yellow-and-blue.

In Champions League action, Hapoel Jerusalem manhandled visiting Antwerp Giants by 20 points to earn a spot in the next round.

James Feldeine scored all of his 20 points in a dominant first half while Amar’e Stoudemire scored 18 points and pulled down six rebounds. Tamir Blatt added 14 points and eight assists, Josh Owens chipped in with 11 points and 10 boards, while Tashawn Thomas stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, five rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

Jerusalem’s stifling defense limited Antwerp’s Paris Lee to only seven points on 3-of-15 shooting as Oded Katash’s squad suffocated the Belgians all night long.

The Reds scored at will early in the paint as Feldeine led the way with 10 first quarter points to take a 25-22 lead. Jerusalem increased its advantage to 54-42 after 20 minutes of action thanks to an active Feldeine, who doubled his output to 20 points.

Katash’s men continued to put the pedal to the metal in the second half as Thomas and Blatt put on a show to take a 73-54 lead after the third frame as Stoudemire helped lead the way to the comfortable victory.

“This is one of the teams that beat us this season and we had our eyes on this game as we wanted to avenge the loss,” said Feldeine.

Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter or visit www.sportsrabbi. Feel free to the Sports Rabbi via email at sportsrabbi9

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