Maccabi and Hapoel to meet in TA Cup derby

Yellow-and-blue crushes Afula, while Reds outplay Ness Ziona; Hap J’lem in action tonight.

Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Raviv Limonad (right) had 12 points and nine assists in his team’s 92-78 win over Tal Dan (left) and Ironi Ness Ziona last night at Hadar Yosef Arena. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Raviv Limonad (right) had 12 points and nine assists in his team’s 92-78 win over Tal Dan (left) and Ironi Ness Ziona last night at Hadar Yosef Arena.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv set up a showdown in the State Cup quarterfinals after claiming comfortable victories in the round of 16 on Wednesday night.
Maccabi beat Hapoel Afula of the National League 97-60, while Hapoel cruised to a surprisingly easy 92-78 victory against Ironi Ness Ziona.
The yellow-and-blue will host the reds for a place in the semifinals at Nokia Arena on Saturday night, looking to avenge last month’s humbling 20-point BSL defeat at home.
Afula, which leads the National League with an 8-2 record, got Wednesday’s clash off to a surprising start, opening an early seven-point gap (17-10) against the reigning Euroleague champion.
However, the yellow-and-blue, scored the final seven points of the first quarter, capped by a Sylven Landesberg three-pointer, tying the score at 17-17. It wouldn’t be long before Maccabi seized complete control of the contest, going on a 13-2 run to open a 43-27 margin.
Tel Aviv took an 18-point cushion (49- 31) into the second half and strolled to the win in the final 20 minutes.
Landesberg finished with 25 points, with Jake Cohen adding 20 points and nine rebounds. David Laboux scored 18 points for Afula.
Hapoel was on fire are the start of its final game at Hadar Yosef Arena, before it enters its new arena at the former site of the Tel Aviv drive-in at the beginning of January.
The hosts scored the first 10 points of the game and all but clinched the win with a 19-0 run, which opened a 29-5 lead that Ness Ziona never came close to erasing.
“We had a very important talk before training yesterday and it worked,” said Hapoel coach Oded Katash. “A derby is always interesting and playing Maccabi is always challenging.”
Hapoel was led by Durand Scott, who had 31 points, hitting five three-pointers.
Yancy Gates added 15 points and 10 boards, with Raviv Limonad finishing with 12 points and nine assists.
Craig Smith had 23 points and nine rebounds for Ness Ziona.
“I just wanted to come out and play as hard as we possibly can,” said Scott.
“I’m happy with my performance and the team and we just want to win our next game as well. Maccabi is a fantastic team so we will have to come focused.”
On Thursday, Hapoel Jerusalem will look to snap its recent slump and put the Donta Smith crisis behind it when it visits Ramat Hasharon of the National League in the round of 16.
Hapoel dropped to its fifth straight defeat over all competitions and third in a row in local league action on Sunday, losing 90-88 to Maccabi Haifa at the Jerusalem Arena.
Smith was fined $25,000 after treating the club’s fans to an obscene gesture with his middle finger as he walked off the floor to their boos following three free-throw misses in the closing seconds which could have given Jerusalem the win.
Smith was not suspended for his conduct and is available to play on Thursday and club owner Ori Allon did his best to ensure the fans will get behind the 31-year-old forward by posting a letter on the club’s official website on Wednesday.
“A year ago we began a process which will change Hapoel Jerusalem forever,” said Allon. “I have no doubt that we will succeed, but I want to emphasize and remind everyone that this is a process which will take a few years.
“Every project I ever started and believed in over a stretch of time was a great success. Hapoel Jerusalem will be no different.”
Even with all its current problems, which include injuries to point guards Derwin Kitchen and Bar Timor, Jerusalem isn’t expected to encounter too much trouble against Ramat Hasharon, which has a 3-7 record in the second division.
However, assuming it triumphs, Hapoel will already face a far tougher challenge on Sunday when it visits the winner of Thursday’s game between Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Bnei Herzliya in the quarterfinals.
Also Thursday: Maccabi Haifa vs. Hapoel Holon; Elitzur Netanya vs, Ironi Nahariya; Maccabi Hod Hasharon vs. Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil; Maccabi Kiryat Gat vs. Hapoel Eilat.