Maccabi Tel Aviv hits ground running in pre-season Winner Cup quarterfinals

Ness Ziona no rival for yellow-and-blue; Rishon awaits in semis after win over Holon.

Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jordan Farmar led all scorers with 23 points in Thursday night’s 84-54 win over Ironi Ness Ziona in their Winner Cup quarterfinal in Holon (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jordan Farmar led all scorers with 23 points in Thursday night’s 84-54 win over Ironi Ness Ziona in their Winner Cup quarterfinal in Holon
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv fans were left with a taste for more after the yellow-and-blue trounced Ironi Ness Ziona 84-54 in the pre-season Winner Cup quarterfinals in the new arena in Holon on Thursday.
After being knocked out in the BSL semifinals for the first time since 1993 last season and ending the campaign with just one title, Maccabi is desperate not to let any local trophy slip its grasp in the coming year, even if it is only a pre-season tournament.
A 20-0 run at the end of the first period and the start of the second opened a 24-point gap (34-10) on Thursday and all but wrapped up Maccabi’s win, with the yellow-and-blue cruising the rest of the way.
Maccabi will face Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the tournament’s semifinals at the Drive-In Arena in Tel Aviv on Saturday after the latter beat Hapoel Holon 80-65 in Thursday’s second quarterfinal. The semifinal lineup will be completed at the Drive-In on Friday when Maccabi Haifa plays Hapoel Eilat before Hapoel Tel Aviv faces last year’s winner Hapoel Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has maintained the core of last season’s triumphant roster, while signing Josh Duncan, Yancy Gates, E.J. Rowland and D’or Fischer.
Hapoel will be aiming to kick-start its preparations after losing to Olimpija Ljubljana and Zalgiris Kaunas with a shorthanded roster last weekend.
Maccabi underwent a complete overhaul during the summer, with only five players coming back for another campaign (Yogev Ohayon, Devin Smith, Sylven Landesberg, Guy Pnini and Brian Randle).
The club brought in five new names, including former NBA guard Jordan Farmar, who spent a two-month stint in Tel Aviv during the NBA lockout in 2011.
Last season’s Euroleague top scorer Taylor Rochestie, Trevor Mbakwe, Dagan Yivzori and former Boston Celtics center Vítor Faverani were all also added to the roster and there were plenty of promising signs for Maccabi on Thursday.
“We played well and displayed good energy from the start,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes. “This was a good game for us and we need to build on it because the level of our opponents is only going to get better.”
Farmar scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the first half, including six three-pointers from seven attempts. Croatian teenager Dragan Bender continued his promising pre-season form with 11 points and five rebounds in 11 minutes, while Yogev Ohayon had 10 points for Maccabi, which hit 14-of-24 threepoint attempts.
Fuquan Edwin led Ness Ziona with 13 points.
“I felt good today,” said Farmar. “We just really wanted to come out and start out on the right foot and be aggressive from the beginning.”
Goodes was pleased with Bender’s contribution, with the 17-year-old phenom carving a larger role for himself with every passing week of pre-season.
“His age or situation don’t mean anything,” said Goodes about Bender, who is projected to be a top-five pick at next year’s NBA draft. “He rebounded well and hit open shots and was very active. He has progressed very well and he needs to continue that way.”
The second quarterfinal of the night was far tighter. Rishon led by seven points (23-16) after 10 minutes, but Holon was down by just a single point (37-36) entering the break. Holon finally took its first lead of the night in the third quarter, but it was Rishon which had a four-point edge (56-52) with 10 minutes to play before racing ahead at the start of the fourth frame.
Rishon scored 15 of the first 19 points of the period to open a 15-point margin (71- 56) from which the hosts never threatened to come back.
“This was a good win for us playing against Holon at its new arena,” said Rishon coach Sharon Drucker.