Maccabi Tel Aviv edges Holon for cup title

Yellow-and-blue led by healthy Casspi • Euroleague rhythm returning as Zenit St. Petersburg comes to town.

AT 32 years old, Omri Casspi is healthy and working himself into form as one of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s leaders on and off the court. (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
AT 32 years old, Omri Casspi is healthy and working himself into form as one of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s leaders on and off the court.
(photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
Maccabi Tel Aviv slipped by Hapoel Holon 86-84 on Saturday night to capture the Winner Cup, the first Israeli title of the 2020/21 season.
Holon played a terrific first 25 minutes to take a 57-50 midway through the third quarter, but Omri Casspi came to the forefront with 4:46 remaining in the frame to lead the team on a 20-6 run with a trio of triples to go up 67-63 and take the narrow victory.
Scottie Wilbekin continued his fine play of late as he scored 16 points, Angelo Caloiaro notched 15 points and Casspi dropped 14 points in the win. Tyrus McGee was almost unstoppable as the guard scored 28 points, while Frederic Bourdillon and Maxim De Zeeuw each scored 11 points in the loss.
The yellow-and-blue entered the cup final after defeating Panathinaikos 89-81 in Euroleague play as Scottie Wilbekin (22 points) and Nemanja Nedovic (39 points) had a fourth-quarter duel from deep as Tel Aviv continued to inch towards the .500 mark.
Maccabi is finally hitting its stride after a tough first few months of the season due to a truncated preseason, injuries to a number of critical players, including 10-year NBA veteran Casspi, and some bad luck near the end of Euroleague games that saw it dig a big hole for itself in the standings that it has needed to dig out from.
“It’s important for us to compete for all of the titles,” said winning coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos. “We didn’t start the game well, we lost a lot of rebounds in the first five minutes and we turned the ball over nine times in the first half. But at half-time we concentrated on playing good defense and we only allowed them 15 points in the third quarter and that was crucial as we got the win.”
Casspi was content with his play as he continues to get back into the swing of things.
“I’m starting to get back to myself. I didn’t play for a long time and it’s not easy. I believe that the injury that I had is one of the toughest in sports if not the most difficult to come back from and many players don’t return from it. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Maccabi now preps for a Euroleague home date against Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday night at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv.