David vs Goliath as Ashdod to face Mac TA
Berkowitz’s boys beat Birenboim’s bunch to roar into BSL title game against yellow-and-blue.
MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Devin Smith Photo: Adi Avishai
Maccabi Ashdod advanced to the BSL title game for the first time in its history
on Tuesday and will face Maccabi Tel Aviv for the championship on Thursday after
the reigning champion cruised into yet another final.
from a nervy first half to claim a comfortable 75-68 win over Maccabi Rishon
Lezion in the first semifinal of the evening at Nokia Arena before Tel Aviv
crushed Hapoel Holon 102-73 after opening a 24- point gap (40-16) in less than
Ashdod took control of its encounter by outscoring Rishon
28-17 in the third quarter and clinched the win thanks to its defensive play and
Ofer Berkowitz’s team out-rebounded Rishon 43-24 while holding
Effi Birenboim’s men to just 40 percent (17 of 42) from two-point range and 29%
(9 of 31) from beyond the arc.
Robby Bostain and Josh Carter had 16
points and six rebounds each for Ashdod, which shot 18 of 26 from two-point
range (69%) and won despite committing 23 turnovers.
“This is an amazing
achievement,” said Berkowitz, whose team knocked out No. 2 seed Hapoel
Gilboa/Galil in the quarterfinal playoffs before getting the better of No. 3
“We showed what a big heart we have. We spoke at the break
about having to loosen up in the second half. I told the players that if
we play at our usual level we will not lose. This is almost like winning
the championship. I hope we can play like this in the final as
Josh Duncan added 15 points for Ashdod, with Meir Tapiro scoring
10 and Alex Tyus finishing with eight points and 15 boards.
“We were a
little overexcited in the first half, including myself,” said the 37-year-old
Tapiro, who will play in the final for the first time since 2007 when his Hapoel
Jerusalem team was edged by Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“This is as big as it gets.
The entire city of Ashdod is going crazy. I’m happy that at my age I’m still
playing and enjoying my basketball. I hope we will also enjoy ourselves on
Derwin Kitchen had 26 points for Rishon, which desperately
missed the injured Joe Crawford.
The second semi was far more one-sided,
with Tel Aviv completely dominating Holon.
Devin Smith had 19 points and
eight rebounds for Maccabi, with Yogev Ohayon scoring 18, Keith Langford 17,
Richard Hendrix 13 and Lior Eliyahu and David Blu 10 points each.
pleased we were sharp from the start,” said Ohayon. “But we have only
done half the job and we need to remain focused for two more days.”
Daniel scored 19 for Holon, with Tasmin Mitchell adding 16.
the way we wanted from the start,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt.
raced ahead from the middle of the first quarter and remained in control until
Blatt has no intention of taking Ashdod lightly.
has already beaten us at Nokia this season,” Blatt noted. “We were playing the
second game of a back-toback, but they still beat us. We definitely have
to be wary.”
Ashdod’s early jitters meant Rishon opened a six-point lead
(19-13) after 10 minutes.
Amit Ben-David’s basket to start the second
quarter increased the gap to eight points, but Rishon failed to fully punish
Ashdod for its early turnovers, with Bostain capping a 7-0 Ashdod run which
brought Berkowitz’s team within a single point (26-25).
Rishon still had
the edge (34-32) at the break, but Ashdod wouldn’t need long to move into the
lead and seize the initiative with an almost perfect offensive
Rishon had no answer for Carter, Tyus and Bostain, whose ninth
point of the period to end the frame gave Ashdod a 60-51 margin.
Tapiro’s three-pointer to start the fourth quarter took the gap to double-digits
(63-51) and Ashdod maintained at least a six point lead until the final whistle
to make history.
Holon kept pace with Maccabi for the first six minutes
of the second semi of the night, with Daniel’s triple tying the score at
However, Tel Aviv soon grabbed complete control, ending the first
quarter with a 16-0 run (30-14).
Blatt’s decision to play Guy Pnini
together with Devin Smith left Holon helpless and Eliyahu’s trademark basket in
the 13th-minute of the game opened a 40-16 gap from which Holon was never going
Dan Shamir’s side managed to close within 17 points (51- 34)
by halftime, but it came no closer than 13 in the second half, dropping to a