Hapoel TA storms into quarterfinals

National League Reds oust Gilboa/Galil; struggling Hap J’lem eliminated by Rishon.

Hapoel's Matan Naor 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel's Matan Naor 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv of the National League stunned Hapoel Gilboa/Galil to reach the State Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, while Hapoel Jerusalem’s dismal season took another turn for the worst with an early exit.
Tel Aviv, which reached the semifinals of the cup last season, never allowed Gilboa’s supposedly superior roster to stamp its authority on the game.
Gilboa’s Dagan Yavzuri tied the score at 54-54 with five minutes remaining, but it was Tel Aviv, backed by a raucous crowd at Hadar Yosef Arena, which pulled ahead in the closing stages with a 7-0 run (61-54) before Matan Naor’s three-pointer with 43 seconds to play (64-59) ensured another memorable cup win for the Reds.
Naor led Tel Aviv with 17 points, while Jonathan Skjoldenbrand scored 16 points.
Joseph Jones had 22 points for Gilboa, which will now have no option but to turn its complete focus to the BSL.
“Our goal is to return to the BSL, the cup is only a bonus,” said Naor, who remembers that despite its magical cup run last season, Hapoel came up short in the National League playoff finals.
Tel Aviv will learn who it faces next in Monday’s draw, with the quarterfinals to already take place this Wednesday and Thursday.
Hapoel Jerusalem was hoping to rescue something from a dreadful season by making a significant cup run, but Maccabi Rishon Lezion had different ideas, progressing to the last eight with an 82-72 home victory.
The game was up for grabs after baskets by Guni Izraeli and Brian Randle brought Jerusalem within two points (71-69) with 1:40 left.
But Effi Birenboim’s Rishon ensured Hapoel would not complete its comeback and gave Jerusalem’s new coach Sharon Drucker plenty to ponder after just his second game at the helm.
Derwin Kitchen led Rishon with 26 points and 11 rebounds, with Joe Crawford contributing 20 points.
“The pressure was on Jerusalem,” Birenboim said. “We played superb defense and scored a lot of points on the fast break.”
Moshe Mizrahi scored 16 points for Jerusalem, which has now got three months of largely meaningless BSL games to look forward to before the start to the league playoffs.
“This isn’t an ideal situation, but it is what it is and no one is looking for an excuse,” Drucker said. “We were ready for this battle. We controlled the game for large periods and I felt we could win the game. But two poor plays ended our story.”
There were two more all-BSL showdowns in the last 16, with BC Habika’a beating Maccabi Haifa 82-76 and Hapoel Holon thrashing Barak Netanya 106-66.
Ironi Ashkelon avoided a shock defeat to National League Elitzur Ramle, eking out an 80-77 victory on the road, while Maccabi Ashdod beat Hapoel Tivon 82-56.
Besides Hapeol Tel Aviv, Hapoel Afula will be the only other National League team in the quarterfinals draw after defeating Maccabi Hod Hasharon 87-77.
The eighth and final team to reach the quarterfinals will be determined on Monday when Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Hasharon.