Maccabi Ashdod coach Ofer Berkowitz 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be going for its 50th Israeli championship on Thursday,
while Maccabi Ashdod will be looking to become just the fifth team ever to win
the local league title when the two sides meet at Nokia Arena in a classic David
vs. Goliath showdown.
After 84 games in all competitions and over 71,000
kilometers in the air, Tel Aviv’s season will finally end on Thursday, and the
yellow-and- blue is determined to finish it on a high.
Tel Aviv clinched
the championship last season with just one defeat throughout the campaign and
coach David Blatt has every intention of maintaining his perfect local trophy
record on Thursday by adding a fourth championship to the four State Cup’s he
has already won in as many seasons at Maccabi.
“If we play the way we did
in the semifinals against Holon we can beat any team in Europe not just Israel,”
said Blatt. “However, our performance on Tuesday guarantees us nothing in the
Tel Aviv ended the regular season with a 23-2 record before
sweeping BC Habika’a in the playoff quarterfinals.
However, one of those
regular season defeats came at Nokia at the hands of Ashdod.
the most of the fact Tel Aviv was playing for the third time in five days on
January 30, winning 78-73.
But it is safe to say that the yellow-and-blue
will enter Thursday’s final far more prepared and determined and will likely
also use that defeat to Ashdod as added motivation.
will draw some encouragement from that victory, especially as no one is giving
Ofer Berkowitz’s team a chance to triumph in the final.
“We are not under
pressure at all,” Berkowitz said. “This team has come a long way and we have had
a great season.
We want to show what we are capable of and hopefully it
will be an interesting final.”
Regardless of Thursday’s result, Ashdod’s
campaign will be remembered as a resounding success.
season didn’t promise much, with the team only ending it in seventh place with a
However, Berkowitz’s decision to utilize the final games of
the regular season to prepare for the playoffs paid off spectacularly when
Ashdod overcame No. 2 seed Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in four games before beating No.
3 seed Rishon to reach the final.
“We know Maccabi is the favorite,” said
veteran playmaker Meir Tapiro. “Tel Aviv has the tools to pull ahead at any
“It isn’t realistic for us to proclaim that we are going to
conquer Nokia. We are focusing on our play the way we did all season
Tapiro knows that the outcome of the final depends almost entirely
on Maccabi, which needed just 13 minutes to open a 24-point gap over Holon in
“It’s very important for us to win,” said Tel Aviv’s David
Blu, who is considering retirement after the final. “It’s been such a long
season, so many games and so many flights.
This is what we’ve been
working for all year.”