Local Hoops: Maccabi looks to get to State Cup final

On a given day anything can happen so we need to be at our best, Gershon says.

basketball coaches 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
basketball coaches 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After failing to claim the State Cup in the past three years, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Pini Gershon is confident his team will go all the way this season.
Maccabi faces Barak Netanya in Monday’s second semifinal at Nokia Arena, with Bnei Hasharon playing Ironi Ashkelon in the first encounter of the day.
Until last season, Gershon had never failed to claim a local title as Maccabi coach. In his six previous campaigns at the helm he had led the team to six league and State Cup doubles. However, Tel Aviv crashed out of the cup in sensational fashion last season, losing at Ironi Nahariya in the round of 16. Gershon is determined to make amends in the coming four days by defeating Netanya in the semis before lifting the cup once more after Thursday’s final.
“We are here to win the cup,” Gershon said in Sunday’s pre-game press conference. “I’m happy to be guiding the favorite, but that didn’t help this club to take the title in the last three years. On a given day anything can happen so we need to be at our best. If we play well we will take the cup.”
Maccabi has played its best basketball of the season in the past month, not only cruising in the BSL as usual, but also recording impressive Euroleague victories over Real Madrid and Efes Pilsen.
However, it has bad memories from its last meeting with Netanya, suffering its one and only BSL loss of the season against Arik Alfasi’s team. Netanya outlasted Tel Aviv 114-103 after double overtime on January 24, and Alfasi is optimistic that despite being a clear underdog his team can give Maccabi a run for its money once more.
“It is a great honor for us just to be in the semifinals,” said Alfasi, whose team has already knocked out both Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil on its way to the last four. “Maccabi is the favorite but we will not give up without a fight. We’ve shown we can compete with them, and I hope we will give them a fight and win.”
One of Netanya’s biggest problem on Monday will be its short rotation.
Four of the team’s players average more than 31.9 minutes per game, with Marco Killingsworth (20.3 ppg), Danilo Pinnock (19.3 ppg) and Tony Washam (18.2 ppg) accounting for 68 percent of the side’s points.
In the first semi of the day, Bnei Hasharon coach Dan Shamir will be looking to maintain his perfect cup record. Shamir led Hapoel Jerusalem to back-to-back State Cup triumphs in 2007 and 2008 in his first two seasons as a head coach and has achieved success in the competition yet again in his first season as Bnei Hasharon boss.
“Anything can happen in the cup and I’m sure each team feels it can take the title,” Shamir said. “We need to know how to raise our level when the time is right and give our all to win the game. We can beat any team.”
Bnei Hasharon beat Ashkelon by two points when the teams met in the BSL earlier this season, but Ashkelon coach Ariel Beit-Halachmi is hoping to extend his team’s dream cup run on Monday.
“We have made history by reaching this stage, but we want to be in thefinal,” said Beit-Halachmi, speaking of the fact that Ashkelon will beplaying in the cup semis for the first time in club history.
“Anything can happen and I hope it will be our day.”