maccabi arroyo 248.88 asaf kliger.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Lior Eliyahu admitted after Thursday's Game 3 victory over Ironi Ashkelon that his head is already in next week's Final Four tournament, even though his team still needs one more win to advance to the season-ending event.
Eliyahu, who led Maccabi with 21 points in the 92-69 victory at Nokia Arena, is clearly confident Tel Aviv will win at Ashkelon on Sunday and wrap up a 3-1 series win.
"The head is already in the Final Four," said Eliyahu. "I hope we can close out the series on the road, even though it will be difficult. We're not underestimating Ashkelon and we will be giving our all."
Maccabi coach Pini Gershon wasn't pleased with his forward's words and spoke of the positive side in not sweeping the quarterfinal series.
"I don't like what Lior said," Gershon commented. "We're not in the Final Four yet and some people here are losing their focus. It might be a positive thing to play a Game 4 as it will mean we won't have too long a break before the Final Four begins."
After losing Game 1 in stunning fashion, Maccabi practically clinched the last two games within the first period and won both encounters by an average 20 points each.
Ashkelon will need a lot to go its way to have any chance of extending the series and Tel Aviv will be a massive favorite to claim yet another easy win on Sunday on its way to the Final Four.
After losing three straight games to Bnei Hasharon, including Game 1 of its quarterfinals playoff series, Maccabi Haifa will be looking for a third straight victory over the side from Ra'anana on Sunday.
Haifa beat Bnei Hasharon 74-61 to take a 2-1 series lead and will be desperate for a victory on Sunday to book a Final Four meeting with Hapoel Jerusalem, which completed a 3-0 sweep of Ironi Nahariya on Thursday.
Maccabi claimed a convincing victory in Game 3, the first double-digit triumph of the series for either side, and the Heat will be confident of winning on Sunday after winning in Ra'anana in Game 2 a week earlier.
Hapoel Galil/Gilboa hosts Hapoel Holon on Sunday in what seems to be the likeliest series to be decided in a fifth and final game. Holon claimed a 2-1 series lead after winning 79-78 after overtime on Thursday, but coach Danny Franco knows his team still has plenty of work to do before it progresses to the Final Four.
"The games between these teams have been close all season," Franco said. "Each game has been very tough and we have been preparing for these tight finishes.
"The fact that we won in Gan Ner in Game 2 means nothing as Galil has made some changes which we will have to be ready for."