Local hoops: Mac TA moves into State Cup semis

Eliyahu left the court in tears, hobbling on his right foot with the help of the medical staff after crashing to the floor.

Lior Eliyahu 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Lior Eliyahu 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv easily advanced to the semifinals of the State Cup on Sunday night, but there were mainly worried faces on the yellowand- blue bench at the end of the 93-77 victory over Hapoel Holon at Nokia Arena after star forward Lior Eliyahu twisted his knee badly in the first half.
Eliyahu left the court in tears, hobbling on his right foot with the help of the medical staff after crashing to the floor and agonizingly clutching his left knee.
The early assessment by the Maccabi medical staff was that Eliyahu likely only strained his knee ligaments and didn’t suffer a tear, but the full extent of the injury was only confirmed by an MRI late Sunday night.
Regardless, Maccabi will have to manage without Eliyahu for Tuesday’s cup semi against Maccabi Ashdod, which beat Maccabi Be’er Ya’akov 104-88 on Sunday.
“We did a good job tonight when you take into account that we had no time to prepare for the game and that we lost Lior the way we did,” said Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.
“An injury like that could have paralyzed the team, but the guys stepped up superbly and dealt with it very well. I’m really encouraged by our performance tonight.”
Maccabi needed just twoand- a-half minutes to open an 11-1 gap over Holon, which was playing without Sean Daniel, who was banned by FIBA for six months after failing a doping test due to his use of Ritalin.
A Jerome Dyson dunk brought Holon back within four points (21-17) late in the first quarter, but a Nik-Caner Medley three-pointer to end the period took the gap back to seven points.
Holon closed to within five points (32-27) in the second frame, but Maccabi surged into a 49-35 margin by the break despite Eliyahu’s injury, which could have major implications on the remainder of the yellow-and-blue’s season.
Sylven Landesberg ended the game with 22 points, with Ricky Hickman scoring 19 and Shawn James adding 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.
Frank Hassell had 25 points and 16 rebounds for Holon.
Ashdod had little trouble against the last National League representative in the competition, effectively clinching the win over Be’er Ya’akov by halftime.
The visitors scored nine of the first 11 points of the night and were in complete control after taking a 20-7 gap with a 9-0 run, capped by an Igor Simin basket.
The second half was a formality after Ashdod took a 54-40 margin into the break and Ofer Berkowitz’s team will face Tel Aviv in the cup semis for the second time in three years.
Austin Freeman led Ashdod with 19 points, with Diamon Simpson scoring 18.
Joshua Alexander had 25 points for the hosts, with Jermaine Hall adding 21 points.
Blatt is expecting a tough challenge from Ashdod on Tuesday.
“Ashdod has raised its level in recent weeks after making changes to its roster,” he said.
“This isn’t an easy game for us without Eliyahu, but we are the reigning cup holder and we want to keep it that way.”
Tel Aviv will face Ashdod in the first semi on Tuesday, with Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa, who won their quarterfinals on Saturday, to face-off in the second semifinal of the night at Nokia.