Holon aims to end Mac TA dominance

Dorsman's team full of confidence ahead of tonight's BSL championship game.

Hapoel Holon 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Hapoel Holon 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 48th time or Hapoel Holon for the very first? If the early signs are anything to go by, than Thursday night's Final Four title game is going to be a scintillating affair. Maccabi, going for its 15th straight championship and a 38th in the last 39 years, faces a Holon team which has never won a title of any sort, not to mention an Israeli championship. One stat puts Maccabi's historical advantage into perspective. So ruthless has been Tel Aviv's dominance of Israeli basketball that Holon's star player P.J. Tucker was a mere eight years old in 1993, the last time a team other than Maccabi was crowned champion. The past, however, will be of little importance on Thursday as Hapoel will be entering the game brimming with confidence after an outstanding season. Holon finished the regular season in first position with a 20-7 record, winning 15 of its last 17 games, including Tuesday's 100-89 victory over Ironi Nahariya in the semifinals. Despite falling behind early, Miki Dorsman's team was unstoppable as soon as it found its rhythm and all but wrapped up the win by the end of the third period. "There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to match up equally against Tel Aviv. The team that makes the least mistakes will win," Dorsman said on Wednesday. "The fact that the final is being played at the Nokia Arena is obviously an advantage for Maccabi. We are, however, determined and intend to complete the job." Maccabi (18-9), on the other hand, entered the Final Four after its worst BSL season ever and showed on Tuesday exactly why many are tipping Holon to end the team's 15-year reign. Tel Aviv barely outlasted Bnei Hasharon 57-55 in Tuesday's semi, further proof of how pitiful the current team playing in yellow and blue is. A complete collapse by Bnei Hasharon in the fourth quarter saved Maccabi's blushes and made sure that even in such a poor season the team progressed to within one win of the BSL title. Maccabi and Holon met three times during the regular season, with Hapoel claiming two of the meetings. On December 10, Holon defeated Tel Aviv 83-71, but three months later Tzvika Sherf's men won 85-84. Hapoel will, however, not fear the perennial champion on Thursday, especially having beaten Maccabi 101-99 in the teams' most recent meeting just a month ago. There are two main keys for Tel Aviv if it's to get the win on Thursday. The first is rebounding. Holon is one of the best rebounding teams in the league and grabbed an amazing 25 offensive boards against Nahariya. The second key is Tucker. The American, who averaged 14.6 points and seven rebounds per game during the season, plays well in his side's victories and scored 23 points and took 13 rebounds on Tuesday. "Holon is a very good team and obviously one of its strengths is offensive rebounding," Sherf said. "We've played Hapoel three times this season and each of the games was played in a similar style, so the odds are that Thursday's game will be the same. "We know exactly what we want from this Final Four and we need to show it on court." For Holon the key is its offensive play. In only three of its 20 wins this season the team scored less than 83 points and Hapoel's offense needs to fire on all cylinders on Thursday or the team will find itself in trouble. "The players are in a good mood and are raring to go," Holon captain Lior Levy said. "We are pleased with what we've achieved so far, but we still have some work to do. Reaching the final is an accomplishment, but no one remembers the runner-up. Second place is respectable, but not satisfying." Nikola Vujcic, who led Maccabi with 13 points and clutch baskets against Bnei Hasharon, is expecting a high-scoring game on Thursday and knows that a Tel Aviv loss will never be forgotten. "There will definitely be more points then in the semi. It will be a much faster game and it will be much more enjoyable," the Croatian said. "Last year we won the championship in the last second and we know anything can happen in one game. "Only Maccabi has something to lose. They've lost for the last 60 years, but if we lose it will be breaking news on CNN," Vujcic added jokingly.