Katash aims to crash Mac TA party

Gilboa/Galil goes for BSL title in tonight’s Final Four climax in Tel Aviv.

katash 248 88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
katash 248 88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
A decade after denying Maccabi Tel Aviv the Euroleague title as a player, Oded Katash will be looking to inflict more pain on his former club as a coach on Thursday night.
Katash’s Hapoel Gilboa/Galil enters the BSL title game at the Nokia Arena as a clear underdog, but the Maccabi legend has already undone the yellow-and-blue once before and he’s expecting his team to put up a fight on Thursday after reaching its first final in 15 years.
Katash scored 17 points for Panathinaikos in the 2000 Euroleague final, including an unforgettable clutch three-pointer, which broke Maccabi’s momentum and resulted in a bitter-sweet celebration for the guard, who went on to say that the victory was both the happiest and saddest day of his life.
Katash has since coached Maccabi, but was pushed out of the club unceremoniously after an unsuccessful seven months at the helm in 2007. However, other than his fleeting tenure at the Nokia Arena his coaching career so far has been a resounding success.
He has taken Galil to the Final Four in three of the past four years and, after losing to Maccabi in the semis in 2007 and 2009, will finally get his chance to coach in the final following Tuesday’s 79-69 semifinal victory over Hapoel Jerusalem.
After a tight first period, Jerusalem pulled ahead in the second quarter, only for Gilboa to go on an 11-0 run to start the second half and take a lead it would not relinquish.
“This is my first final as a coach and I’m delighted,” Katash said. “I wanted this so much. We always met Maccabi in the semis and we came close but never made it. When we play well we are one of the two best teams in the country. It is a huge achievement for Gilboa just to be in the final.”
Tel Aviv beat Katash’s side in both regular season meetings, including by a 93-81 scoreline when the teams met at the Nokia Arena in March.
However, the Gilboa players, who many of whom remain from the roster which lost a tight semifinal encounter to Maccabi last season, believe that they have what it takes to get the better of Pini Gershon’s team when it counts most.
“Reaching the final is a massive accomplishment, but we have one more mission now – to win in the final,” said guard Jeremy Pargo, who scored 13 points and was one of four Gilboa players in double-figures in the semi against Jerusalem.
While Gilboa had to fight for its place in the final, Maccabi opened a 15-point margin over Barak Netanya by the end of the first period and cruised for the remainder of the encounter.
There were plenty of question marks regarding Maccabi’s supremacy in the BSL following its five-game struggle with Bnei Hasharon in the playoff quarterfinals. But Tel Aviv never gave Netanya a chance on Tuesday and won in trademark style.
“I’m happy with the first 10 minutes, because the rest of the game was not a contest,” Gershon said. “We will do everything to hold on to our title.”
Guy Pnini led seven Maccabi players in double-figures with 16 points and is an optimistic mood ahead of the final.
“We began the game well, the way we have done all season long,” Pninisaid. “This is the Final Four and you don’t need any extra motivation.We focused on basketball and did our job.”
Center D’or Fischer is confident that no one at Maccabi will be showingany of the complacency which cost it dearly in the series against BneiHasharon.
“We have learned our lesson and we know Gilboa is an excellent teamwith good players,” Fischer said. “This is the last game of the seasonand everything depends on it. A lot is on the line and we can’tdisappoint. If we do our job we will win.”