Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Yogev Ohayon.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Oded Katash will have another chance to snatch a title away from his former club after guiding Hapoel Eilat to its first ever State Cup final on Monday where it will face Maccabi Tel Aviv at Nokia Arena on Thursday night.
Eilat outplayed Hapoel Tel Aviv in an 82-73 victory in the first semifinal of the day at Nokia before Maccabi humbled Maccabi Rishon Lezion 99-83.
Eilat’s defense shut down Hapoel in the first three quarters, allowing just 40 points in 30 minutes to advance to the final.
“I’m so happy for this club,” said Katash, who led Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil to the BSL championship at the expense of Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2009/10. “I hope this is a beginning of a tradition.”
The yellow-and-blue led Rishon by just five points (49-44) at halftime of the second semi, but outscored Tzvika Sherf’s team 31-18 in the third period to seize complete control on the way to a comfortable victory.
“There are no easy games at this stage,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “Rishon did a very good job and gave us a battle. However, I’m happy that we reached the final after a tough game. Eilat is going to give us a real fight, especially after Katash’s coaching clinic against Hapoel.”
Tyrese Rice led six Maccabi players in double-figures with 19 points on Monday, with Devin Smith and Ricky Hickman adding 14 points each. Shawn Dowson led Rishon with 18 points and seven rebounds, impressing with memorable dunks and blocks.
Both Eilat and Hapoel looked to be suffering from nerves at the start of the first semi of the night. However, it would soon become apparent that Tel Aviv’s offensive struggles were just as much about Eilat’s superb defensive play as they were about Hapoel catapulting under the pressure.
Eilat pounded Hapoel under the baskets, mainly through Yancy Gates, but it was Christian Watford’s three-pointer which took the margin to double-digits (33-23).
Katash’s team maintained a double-figure cushion (38-28) until the break, with matters going from bad to worse for Tel Aviv after captain Matan Naor was forced to limp off late in the second quarter.
Hapoel coach Erez Edelstein knew his team had to register an extreme improvement in the second half if it had any intention of mounting a comeback after hitting just 5-of-20 two-point attempts in the first 20 minutes.
However, it was Eilat which moved up a gear after the interval, beginning the third period with a 14-4 run, capped by a Gates jumper, to open an unassailable 20-point cushion (52-32).
Gates ended the night with 19 points, while Watford had 14 points and Elishay Kadir and Terrence Roderick contributed 13 points each.
Carlon Brown led Tel Aviv with 20 points, but with Raviv Limonad hitting just 2-of-10 field goals in his return from injury - finishing the game with more turnovers (6) than points (4) - the Reds had little chance of reaching their first cup final in 20 years.
Also Monday, the Israel national team was drawn with Montenegro, Bulgaria and Netherlands in Group B of EuroBasket 2015 qualification. The seven group winners will advance directly to the tournament, with the six best second-placed finishers to also progress to the European Championships in Ukraine. The qualifiers will be played between August 10 and 27.