Netanya next in line to face TA juggernaut

State Cup final pits mighty Maccabi against Alfasi’s struggling crew.

banks311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Such has been Maccabi Tel Aviv’s dominance in recent weeks that Barak Netanya coach Eric Alfasi is first and foremost hoping his team can survive the first quarter of Thursday night’s State Cup final at Nokia Arena.
Alfasi believes Netanya can lift the cup for the first time in club history, but understands the mammoth task his team faces.
“Every team that plays Maccabi at Nokia seems to all but lose the game by the end of the first period,” Alfasi said. “But we will not give up without a fight.
“Clearly Maccabi is the favorite, but we have recorded impressive wins in the cup this season and we want to bring the trophy back to Netanya.”
Tel Aviv has won its last four games in all competitions by an average 40.2 points, leading by an average 18.5 points at the end of the first quarter.
The yellow-and-blue outscored Maccabi Ashdod 27-3 in the first 10 minutes of the semifinal on Monday on the way to a 37- point win, and beat Netanya by a combined 62 points in two BSL meetings this season.
Tel Aviv crushed Netanya 117-69 when the sides met at Nokia in the league earlier this season, but coach David Blatt wants his players to remember that when they last played less then three weeks ago, Maccabi actually trailed 26-18 before cruising to a 14-point win.
“Netanya deserved to get to the final and we respect them for that,” Blatt said. “We built the team in order to win these games and we will be ready lift the cup for a second straight year.”
After surprising Hapoel Jerusalem at Malha Arena in the quarterfinals, Netanya came back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to edge Hapoel Tel Aviv 78-77 in the semis.
It owed its victory to Adrian Banks, who led his team to the dramatic win by scoring 16 points in the final six minutes of the game.
“We want to win the cup,” Maccabi forward David Blu said.
“A victory in the final can give us a big boost for the remainder of the season. There is an amazing atmosphere in the team following our recent results.
“We have gelled together and everybody loves each other. We are not underestimating Netanya and we know we will have to fight to win. They have already given us some trouble this season and we need to show them respect.”
To make matters even more complicated for Alfasi, Netanya has also struggled with its form in recent weeks, losing seven of its past eight games in all competitions before getting the better of Hapoel in the cup semis.
Nevertheless, Alfasi is confident his team will not go down without a fight.
“We had an unpleasant experience at Nokia earlier this season when Maccabi clinched the game early on,” Alfasi said. “It is hard to find any aspect in which we have an advantage over Maccabi, which has a budget 10 times larger than ours. We didn’t play our best against Hapoel, but managed to pull out the win when it counted.
“We are not coming to the final just to make up the numbers.
We will give our all, although that may not be enough because Maccabi is the clear favorite in every aspect of the game and at every position.”
On TV: State Cup Final: Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Barak Netanya (live on Channel 1 at 8:30 p.m.)