Hap TA-Netanya, Mac TA-Ashdod in State Cup semis

Despite recent setback, Hapoel TA continues to lead standings with 16-1 record; Forward Asbury: Team has every chance of making final.

Adrian Uter 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Adrian Uter 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Cinderella State Cup run comes to Nokia Arena on Monday night when the National League leader faces Barak Netanya in the semifinals.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be a massive favorite to reach the final when it plays Maccabi Ashdod in Monday’s second semi, but all eyes will be on Hapoel after its unlikely progress to the last four.
The fan-owned club overcame Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Haifa of the BSL in the last two rounds and is confident of claiming another victory over a top-flight club on Monday.
“There is no doubt that Netanya is the favorite,” Hapoel coach Sharon Avrahami said. “Netanya is a BSL team which plays in Europe and has far more experience at these stages. But our advantage will be the fact that half of Nokia Arena will be red and that will give us a tremendous push and stress Netanya.
“My players have proven themselves at every chance they have been given so far and they will once more give their all.”
After more than three years, Hapoel dropped to its first ever league defeat two weeks ago, losing 74-72 to Hapoel Kfar Saba/Kokhav Yair.
Since its formation in the summer of 2007, Hapoel had progressed through Israeli basketball’s lower divisions without a defeat. Despite the recent setback, it continues to lead the standings comfortably with a 16-1 record and star forward Brian Asbury believes his team has every chance of making the final.
“If we play as a team the way we did in our previous games we will be okay,” said Asbury, who has averaged 32 points and eight rebounds per game in his team’s cup campaign.
“We know what we need to do to win and we have the players who can get the job done.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv has been in outstanding form for much of the season, amassing a record of 28-2 in all competitions. In its last three games, two in the Euroleague and one in the BSL, the yellow- and-blue has won by an average 41.3 points and Ashdod will have to record one of the biggest surprises in Israeli basketball history if it’s to reach its first ever cup final.
Making matters even more complicated for Ashdod is its recent form. Ofer Berkowtiz’s team was the surprise package in the BSL at the start of the season, winning at one stage six of seven games to move into second position in the table, as well as knocking out Bnei Hasharon and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil on its way to the cup semis.
However, Ashdod has lost four of its last five league games, including three straight, and enters Monday’s encounter in the worst possible situation.
On TV: State Cup semifinals: Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Barak Netanya (live on Channel 1 at 7 p.m.); Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Maccabi Ashdod (live on Channel 1 at 9:30 p.m.)