Hap J’lem’s Danny Franco and Yotam Halperin and Mac TA’s Guy Goodes and Yogev Ohayon.
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/IBA)
Rarely has a team entered a State Cup final against Maccabi Tel Aviv as confident as Hapoel Jerusalem will be on Sunday night.
Not only will Hapoel be playing a final at its home venue for the first time, with the new Jerusalem Arena to host the title game.
Hapoel is also coming into the final, which was postponed by three days due to the snowy weather in Jerusalem, in fantastic momentum after crushing Hapoel Eilat 97-65 in last week’s semifinal.
Jerusalem has also won its past three BSL games and is unbeaten over all competitions since January 18.
However, there is no chance Hapoel will be feeling complacent on Sunday, with the team’s last defeat being a 20-point thrashing at the hands of Maccabi at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Even though it has lost just one game in 2015, Maccabi has struggled by its standards over the past couple of weeks.
The yellow-and-blue had to erase a 21-point deficit to beat Maccabi Haifa in BSL action two weeks ago before suffering a surprise 66-59 home loss to a mediocre Alba Berlin in the Euroleague.
Maccabi was also fortunate to progress to the cup final last week, coming back from a five-point deficit in the final minute against Haifa to force overtime before clinching a 90-87 win.
Tel Aviv will also have to manage without Sofoklis Schortsanitis on Sunday, with the Greek center to miss the final with a sprained ankle.
Hapoel and Maccabi will be meeting for the fourth time in 2014/15.
Jerusalem beat Maccabi after a tight game in the pre-season Winner Cup final in September before trouncing the yellow- and-blue by 30 points in the BSL in November, only for Tel Aviv to win by 20 points last month.
“Our previous meetings this season unfolded in extremely different manners and we will have to prove we are ready for the final,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco on Saturday. “It has been a long time since the club last played in a final and we have an opportunity to achieve something great.”
Maccabi and Jerusalem will be meeting in the cup final for the first time since 2008 when Hapoel erased an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to record a remarkable victory and lift the trophy for a second straight year.
Jerusalem hasn’t won a title since, failing to even reach the league or cup finals over the past six years.
Maccabi coach Guy Goodes claimed after the semis that his team will be the underdog in the final, but wouldn’t say so once more on Saturday.
“The small details will decide the final,” said Goodes. “Both teams know each other very well.”
On Saturday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion (11-9) snapped a three-game losing streak in the BSL, beating Hapoel Tel Aviv (11-9) 81-73. Hapoel seized control with a 15-2 run (22-10) in the first quarter, but Rishon tied the game with a 16-4 surge. Hapoel still took a one-point edge into the final 10 minutes (55-54), but the hosts were the more composed team in the fourth quarter.
Tony Younger led five Rishon players in double figures with 20 points, while Durand Scott scored 20 points for Hapoel.