Sherf faces first test in Cup quarterfinals

Veteran coach makes Rishon debut versus Gilboa while Hap TA hosts J’lem in intriguing showdown.

Maccabi Rishon Lezion 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Rishon Lezion 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Tzvika Sherf will be hoping to make a winning return to the sidelines on Thursday night when Maccabi Rishon Lezion hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in the State Cup quarterfinals.
More than two years after he last guided a team and five years since he last coached in Israel, the 62-year-old will be back where he feels most comfortable on Thursday after surprisingly joining Rishon on Tuesday, becoming the club’s third coach of the season.
“Rishon Lezion is an important team in Israeli basketball,” said Sherf, who is one of the most decorated coaches in local hoops history, holding the Maccabi Tel Aviv job on five separate occasions and guiding the Israel national team for a total of 10 years in three different tenures.
“There is nothing I love more than coaching and as soon as the opportunity presented itself I took it.”
Roni Bosani left Rishon the week prior to the team’s first BSL game of the season and his replacement Matah Harush lasted just 11 league games, with the team currently holding the second-worst record in the league at 3-8.
Rishon advanced to the last eight of the cup with a 64-58 victory over Hapoel Afula of the second division on Sunday, but the team’s erratic performance against a clearly inferior roster resulted in Harush’s sacking.
“The team’s in a tough situation and I’m not a magician,” said Sherf. “I’m a man who believes in hard work and I will try to motivate the players to work hard and get back on track.”
Gilboa/Galil claimed a comfortable 86- 61 win at Elitzur Ramle of the National League in the last 16 and is currently allowing the least amount of the points in the league (72.9 ppg), although it is also the BSL’s second-worst offensive team (71.8 ppg), ahead only of Rishon (71.5 ppg).
One of the BSL’s in-form teams will miss out on the cup semifinals after Hapoel Tel Aviv was drawn to host Hapoel Jerusalem at Hadar Yosef on Thursday.
Tel Aviv beat Ironi Ness Ziona 82-72 on the road in the last 16 on Sunday and has won three straight BSL games since losing to Jerusalem at Hadar Yosef last month to move to a 7-4 record, second only to Jerusalem (8-3). The team from the capital has won eight of its past nine league games, but had to dig deep to defeat Hapoel Galil Elyon of the second division 81-76 in the cup on Sunday.
“Our last game against Hapoel was very aggressive and tense and I’m convinced that it won’t be any different this time,” said Jerusalem guard Derwin Kitchen.
“This is a knockout game and we must remain composed throughout the 40 minutes and be a lot more aggressive than we were at the start of the week.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be aiming to extend its winning streak to a season-best seven games on Thursday when it hosts Bnei Herzliya at Nokia Arena.
After its early season struggles, Maccabi has won its past five contests in all competitions by an average 13.8 points, including Sunday’s 83-65 triumph over Maccabi Ashdod at Nokia.
Maccabi beat Herzliya by just three points (78-75) when the teams met in the BSL last month. Herzliya was extremely fortunate to advance to the quarters, beating Hapoel Holon 79-73 in overtime after Holon had a winning basket wrongly disallowed at the end of regulation.
Also Thursday, Hapoel Eilat visits the National League’s lone representative in the last eight, Ramat Hasharon.
The semifinals and final of the cup will take place at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv on February 3 and 6, respectively.Thursday On TV: Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Hapoel (live on Channel 1 at 6:45 p.m.); Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Bnei Herzliya(live on Sport5 at 8:50 p.m.)