Mac Rishon beats feel-good Hap TA to advance

Rishon fights off multiple runs to reach final four, joining Mac TA, Hap Holon and Habika’a.

EREZ EDELSTEIN 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Rishon Lezion ended Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Cinderella State Cup run on Thursday night, while Maccabi Tel Aviv ensured the National League will not have any representation in the semifinals with a straightforward victory at Hapoel Afula.
The fourth and final team to advance to the last four was BC Habika’a, which recorded a dramatic 70-64 victory over Maccabi Ashdod, with Hapoel Holon securing its progress on Wednesday with an 83-64 win over Ironi Ashkelon.
Hapoel Tel Aviv of the National League was looking to reach the semifinals of the cup for a second straight season and it gave Rishon a run for its money for large periods of Thursday’s encounter at Hadar Yosef Arena before succumbing 79-70.
Hapoel led by four points (18-14) after 10 minutes, but a 19-2 Rishon run early in the second period put Effi Birenboim’s side in the driving seat (33-22).
Rishon still had a double-digit gap at the break (43-31), but backed by its raucous support, Hapoel remained within striking distance in the third and Erez Edelstein’s men were still alive with 10 minutes to play, trailing 58-49.
The hosts managed to come within seven points at one stage in the final frame (66-59), but every time Hapoel threatened Rishon’s cushion, the visitors seemed to answer back with a three-pointer, hitting 10 of 18 shots from beyond the arc on the night.
Joe Crawford had 27 points, including three triples, for Rishon, with former Hapoel Tel Aviv forward Adrian Uter adding 21 points and seven rebounds.
Cory Carr scored 17 points for Hapoel.
“We implemented our game plan and we looked good,” a pleased Birenboim said. “Last season we reached the BSL Final Four and now we are in the final four of the cup and that is a great achievement for this club. Now I’m crossing my fingers that we will not be drawn against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the semis.”
The yellow-and-blue entered Thursday’s quarterfinal at Afula with seven straight wins by at least 20 points and it was far from a surprise that it made it eight in a row with a 116-86 win.
Maccabi center Shawn James stole the show with a rare triple-double, scoring 12 points, taking 10 rebounds and recording no less than 11 blocks.
David Blu scored 25 points and Lior Eliyahu added 20 for Maccabi, which took it easy in the first quarter, leading by a mere five points (25-25) after 10 minutes (25-20).
However, Maccabi moved up a gear in the second period to take a 54-40 gap into the break, rendering the second half as no more than an exhibition.
“It was a fun game,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said. “I think Afula is a good team. They won seven of eight games before this. We have used our recent games to work on some things ahead of the start to the Euroleague Top 16 next week. What we have encountered in recent weeks is nothing like what we will face at Zalgiris Kaunas next Thursday.”
The tightest game of the night was in Ashdod, with the lead going back and forth in the closing stages.
A Josh Carter three gave Ashdod a 64-63 lead with 1:46 remaining, but a Rashaun Freeman basket put Habika’a back in the lead for good and sent the newly-promoted side into the semis.
Paul Delaney led the winners with 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists, with Carter scoring 17 for Ashdod.