Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Jeremy Pargo .
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Three days after its dramatic Game 5 win over Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Eilat looks to carry the momentum into Wednesday’s BSL semifinal series opener against a well-rested Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Eilat beat Haifa 85-75 at home on Sunday to advance to the league semis for a third straight year, but had little time to recharge its batteries ahead of the start of the series against the defending champion.
Maccabi, on the other hand, has had 10 days of rest after completing a 3-0 sweep of Ironi Ness Ziona in the quarters on May 24.
Maccabi beat Eilat in all three of their regular season meetings, coming back from 14 points down in the final quarter of the encounter at Yad Eliyahu at the start of January.
Eilat was still being coached by Dan Shamir at the time, with Arik Shivek only taking charge on February 18.
Shivek took over the team when it was sitting in seventh place in the BSL standings with a 9-10 record. Eilat went 8-6 under Shivek to end the regular season, securing the No. 4 seed.
Shivek, who is coaching an Israeli club for the first time since leaving Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2002, guiding teams in the Netherlands and Belgium while also coaching the blue-and-white national team between 2009 and 2014, believes Eilat can give No. 1 seed Maccabi a run for its money.
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“We are arriving in Tel Aviv after a long and exhausting series but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Shivek. “The players are under a lot of strain, but the team is coming into the series with positive momentum that wasn’t disrupted by a long break.
“We are the underdog, but if we play the way we have over recent months I believe that we can do some damage against Maccabi.”
The other semifinal series will begin on Thursday when Hapoel Jerusalem (2) hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion (6).
Jerusalem swept Hapoel Tel Aviv (7) 3-0 in the quarters while Rishon beat Hapoel Holon (3) 3-1.
“It is important we get the series off to a good start and build on what we did in the quarters,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco.
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