Greens and yellow-and-blue to vie for title

Maccabi Tel Aviv will face Maccabi Haifa will square off in the State Cup final after claiming victories in semifinals.

Maccabi Haifa's Ido Kozikaro 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa's Ido Kozikaro 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will face Maccabi Haifa in the State Cup final on Thursday night after both teams claimed distinctively different victories in the semifinals at Nokia Arena on Tuesday.
Tel Aviv wasn’t expected to have any trouble against Maccabi Ashdod in the first semi of the night, but the yellow-and- blue was forced to dig deep before claiming an 85-80 win.
Haifa, on the other hand, dominated Hapoel Jerusalem almost from the tipoff of their semifinal, going on a 19-2 run at the end of the third period and the start of the fourth on the way to a comfortable 80-61 victory.
“We quickly seized control of the game, but we lost our way and squandered the opportunity to finish it off,” said Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, whose team is aiming for its fourth straight cup triumph.
“Ashdod did an excellent job and took the initiative, but we showed our character in the second half. We have a hungry and stubborn team and even when we don’t play well we don’t give up.”
Haifa opened an early lead and progressed to its first final since 2009 largely thanks to its play in the paint.
A Jerome Thomas basket opened an 11-point gap (16-5), but the Greens were only ahead by five points (23-18) after 10 minutes.
Jerusalem was still at arm’s length at the break (38-31), but it never really looked likely to complete a comeback and Haifa effectively clinched the conquest early in the fourth quarter.
Donta Smith led Haifa with 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists, with Thomas finishing with 16 points and 12 boards.
Josh Duncan had 18 points and eight rebounds for Jerusalem, which hasn’t reached a cup final since 2008.
The first semifinal looked to be as good as over after just three-and-a-half minutes, with Tel Aviv going on an 11- 0 run within 75 seconds.
Three triples in quick succession, two of which by Yogev Ohayon, opened a 16-6 gap and Maccabi was cruising after 10 minutes, leading 30- 17 after hitting 12 of 18 field goal attempts.
The yellow-and-blue’s margin reached 19 points in the second period (47-28) and it was still in complete control at the break (54-41).
However, Ashdod never gave up the chase and ate away at the deficit at the start of the second half, with a Diamon Simpson basket bringing the team within two points (60-58) with 2:59 to play in the quarter.
Despite its best efforts, Tel Aviv failed to put the game to bed until the final whistle, with a Mardy Collins basket closing the margin to 83-80 with 1:35 remaining.
Ashdod’s Guni Izraeli could have tied the score with 11 seconds to play, but he missed an open three and Tel Aviv advanced while Ashdod was left with nothing more than compliments.
Ohayon led five Maccabi players in double-figures with 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, with Sylven Landesberg adding 15 points and Nik Caner-Medley scoring 13 in the absence of the injured Lior Eliyahu.
Simpson ended the night with 26 points and 16 boards, with Mardy Collins contributing 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists.