Maccabi Tel Aviv claims pre-season Winner Cup

“We are a new team, but it feels great to come in and get a trophy,” one player said.

Maccabi Tel Aviv player Deshaun Thomas  (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv player Deshaun Thomas
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv ended its preseason by hoisting the Winner Cup on Thursday night, an experience it hopes to emulate several times during 2017/18.
Maccabi defeated Ironi Nahariya 93-79 in the final in Holon and looks to be entering the new season in promising form after another summer of rebuilding.
Maccabi, which led Nahariya by 13 points at the break and cruised in the second half, has undergone a complete overhaul once more.
Only young Israeli center Itay Segev has returned from last season after new coach Neven Spahija insisted he wanted to start with a clean slate.
DeShaun Thomas led five Maccabi players in double figures, with 20 points. Alex Tyus added a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, with Michael Roll netting 14 points and John DiBartolomeo and Jonah Bolden contributing 11 points each.
“We are a new team, but it feels great to come in and get a trophy,” said Thomas. “We came out to play hard and we got a win.”
Maccabi visits Hapoel Eilat in its BSL regular season opener on Monday before going to Germany for its first Euroleague contest against Bamberg next Thursday.
“This doesn’t say anything about the upcoming season. It is too early,” insisted Spahija.
“We won this tournament and I think we did a pretty good job in preseason, but unfortunately I lost one week to work with all of my players because of injuries.”
The Croatian was pleased with his roster’s unselfish play.
“We want to share the ball. We want to score with more people. We don’t want to put the ball in the hands of two or three people,” explained Spahija. “We took a great step in the past week.”
An 8-0 run to end the first period, courtesy of six straight points by Tyus, gave Maccabi a seven-point margin (22-15) after 10 minutes.
With guards Norris Cole, Pierre Jackson and DeAndre Kane all still out injured, 19-year-old Yovel Zoosman once more staked his claim for a significant role in the rotation, hitting two three-pointers in a row to give Maccabi its first double-digit margin of the night (36-25).
The yellow-and-blue took a 13-point cushion (49-36) into the break and its gap soon reached 20 points thanks to Australian Bolden and Michael Roll. Bolden had eight consecutive points and Roll then added five in a row to open a 63-43 margin.
Nahariya continued to fight and Denzel Livingston’s threepoint play made it an eightpoint game (80-72) midway through the fourth frame.
But Nahariya came no closer and Maccabi will be hoping Thursday’s celebrations prove to be a sign of things to come.
Maccabi Haifa opened its seventh US tour in eight years on Wednesday with a 117-78 defeat to the Utah Jazz. Brandon Bowman led last season’s BSL runner-up with 28 points.
NBA veteran Josh Smith, who is playing for Haifa as a non-roster invitee, added 18 points.
Smith, 31, played 12 seasons in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and LA Clippers,w tallying career averages of 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 891 games. Smith, who is trying to return to the NBA after playing in China last season, will have another chance to impress when Haifa plays the Indiana Pacers next Tuesday and the Portland Trail Blazers three days later.