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And then there were two: Hapoel Jerusalem & Maccabi Tel Aviv, may the best team win!

Dov Halickman Photography

State Cup Semifinals Rundown

There was plenty of drama in game one at the Jerusalem Arena as Maccabi Tel Aviv squeaked by Maccabi Ashdod 95-89. Victor Rudd starred for the Yellow & Blue coming on strong for the Cup Holders with 22 points going 4/5 from behind the arc while DJ Seely dropped 17 points on 7/8 shooting from the field. Maccabi sported a 13 point lead early on but could never pull away from the pesky Meir Tapiro led squad. Jackie Carmichael picked up a double double with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Preston Knowles finished with 17 points as Jake Cohen scored 15 in the loss. Itay Segev and Carmichael traded baskets with under 30 seconds to go in the game with the score 90-88 in favor of Maccabi while Landesberg sealed the deal following misses from Knowles and Yiftach Ziv to send the Yellow & Blue into the final as they attempt to win Cup number 8 in a row.

However, Maccabi will have a tough opponent in Hapoel Jerusalem who won the second semifinal game over Hapoel Holon 68-59. Tarence Kinsey starred with a superb second half scoring 19 points to lead the Reds over Dan Shamir’s injury plagued squad. Amare Stoudemire did most of his offensive damage in the first quarter scoring 8 of his 10 points in the frame. With Jerusalem holding a 6 point, 18-12 lead after ten minutes, Holon stormed back to take a 2 point advantage into the half with a 29-27 lead. However, Jerusalem came back to take a two point lead of their own into the last quarter 44-42 thanks to Kinsey while Curtis Jerrells played the lead role in the final frame ending the game with 14 points. Darion Atkins finished the contest with a double double for Holon scoring 18 points and pulling down 11 boards, but it would not be enough for the undermanned side.

3-Pointers
1) Tarence Kinsey came in big for Jerusalem and helped lead the Reds to victory. Before the game it was reported that he was not 100% but would attempt to play. And play he did. Many of us only wish to be hurt like TK and play like him. Defensively both Kinsey and Jerome Dyson were rocks closing down Holon at any and every opportunity. Kinsey also had a special fan in the stands as his mother was in attendance to see his brilliance on the Jerusalem home court.

2) Both Ashdod and Holon came into the game a bit shorthanded and the situation for Ashdod got worse just minutes into the game as Adam Ariel went down with an injury making it and even harder road for Tapiro and his team, but they valiantly fought and stayed in the game all the way until the end. For Shamir’s Holon, Khalif Wyatt went down with a season ending injury and Tu Holloway arrived in his place. Unfortunately, Holloway played only four ineffective minutes and Jordan Taylor who took the majority of Wyatt’s playing time had a brutal night and one to forget for Holon with just 6 points in 35 minutes going 2/14 from the floor. It was clear that Taylor would get those minutes and it was certain that Pianigiani would prepare appropriately. Another crazy stat that stuck out on the scoresheet was Holon going 1/16 from 3-point land as almost every shot was contested by the Reds defense.

3) Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to win its 8th Israel State Cup in a row. Last year they won it in Tel Aviv and the year before that they stunned Jerusalem by blowing them out in the same Jerusalem Arena they will play in on Thursday night. Devin Smith starred in that game, but that was Devin Smith of two years ago and not the one who played his first game for the Yellow & Blue in Israeli competition in the semifinals against Ashdod. I just don’t see how Maccabi will be able to withstand the firepower of Jerusalem. But I did see Coach Ainars Bagatskis sitting and watching Hapoel intently in their game and no doubt will the Latvian be able to compete with the same team that they lost to under two weeks ago. If I could offer just one bit of advice to Bagatskis it would be to play tough defense and physically against the Reds to try and knock them off of their game. That coupled with the fact that Andrew Goudelock will probably not score just two points as he did against Ashdod could turn the tide for Maccabi. But let’s wait and see. This will be yet another Israeli Classico that everyone will be licking their lips in anticipation for.

Overtime
Maccabi will look to salvage their season on Thursday night and pick up a trophy, while Jerusalem will want to prove to all the doubters that they are here to stay and put a stamp on the plan that owner Ori Allon has put together with coach Simone Pianigiani. There’s no question that Ainars Bagatskis wants to win the Cup and he clearly said so at Sunday’s press conference while Pianigiani continues to deflect the pressure away from his team by saying that the goal is to be in the game until the end of each competition. It was brought up at last night’s postgame pressure that the Italian hasn’t lost a Cup match. So there’s no doubt that his focus is on winning another piece of hardware. I’m sure that both teams will put in 110% effort and we will get a close game though I’m not sure it will be a pretty one. As they say, let the best team win!