(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite missing the injured Lior Eliyahu, Maccabi Tel Aviv will be a massive
favorite to advance to the State Cup final when it faces Maccabi Ashdod at Nokia
Arena on Tuesday, while Hapoel Jerusalem will look to reach its first final in
five years when it comes up against Maccabi Haifa in the second semifinal of the
Tel Aviv breezed past Hapoel Holon in Sunday’s quarterfinal, but
it will be without star forward Eliyahu between 10 days and three weeks after he
twisted his knee badly during the first half.
Eliyahu left the court in
tears after crashing to the floor and agonizingly clutching his left knee, but
an MRI confirmed that he only strained his knee ligaments and didn’t suffer a
tear, which could have ended his season and crushed Maccabi’s lingering hopes in
However, he will miss Tuesday’s semi against Ashdod,
which beat Maccabi Be’er Ya’akov of the National League 104- 88 in the
quarterfinals, and Tel Aviv coach David Blatt is hoping the rest of his roster
can step up to cover for his loss.
“We have been very dominant in the
league this season, but the cup has a life of its own and every game is
crucial,” said Blatt. “To play Ashdod in the semis is never easy and it has
become even more difficult due to Lior’s injury. However, we will be ready and
we really want this win because this competition means a lot to
Ashdod has won four of its past five BSL games since losing by 32
points to Maccabi, with the mid-season additions of Mardy Collins and Austin
Freeman revitalizing the roster.
“We made changes to the team and as soon
as everyone settled we also began to play much better,” said Ashdod coach Ofer
Berkowitz, who will guide his team against Maccabi in the cup semis for the
second time in three years. “We overcome a poor start to the season and the
effects of Operation Pillar of Defense and now we have a strong united team
which is ready for the semifinal.”
Despite his team’s recent form,
Berkowitz refused to asses his side’s chances against Tel Aviv.
to give our all and enjoy the night,” he said. “To come out and make statements
ahead of a game like this wouldn’t be smart on our behalf.”
Jerusalem recorded one of its best performances of the season in the 86- 70
humbling of Hapoel Eilat in the quarterfinals at Malha Arena on Saturday, and
has plenty on the line on Tuesday after failing to reach either the cup or
league final over the previous four seasons.
“Jerusalem should always be
a part of the big finals,” said coach Sharon Drucker.
“Haifa is clearly a
top team, but we need to focus on our own play. We are entering the encounter in
good form and we need to continue to display our best defensive play throughout
Jerusalem crashed to a 17-point BSL defeat to Ashdod just five
days before its impressive showing against Eilat, but coach Drucker is confident
his players can avoid a return to their erratic ways and come up with the goods
once more on Tuesday.
“Whenever we have had our backs against the wall
the guys have been there,” he said. “We trust our guys and they will be there on
Tuesday and we will do this.”
Haifa has lost three of its past four BSL
games, but it showed signs of a return to its promising early season form in the
21-point thrashing of Bnei Herzliya in the quarters.
“We played Jerusalem
one time this season and held them to 140 points, so hopefully we do a little
better guarding them this time,” joked Haifa coach Brad Greenberg, referring to
his team’s 103-92 BSL defeat at Malha two months ago.
“I think it is
exciting for both teams to square off against each other. I know this is a
special event and I just feel blessed to be part of it.”