Nes Ziona upset Maccabi Tel Aviv 83-81 on a game winning three-pointer by Daequan Cook with only 2.9 seconds remaining on the clock. The yellow-and-blue had just taken the lead on a John DiBartolomeo 3-pointer capping off an 11-2 run but Cook’s 5th three of the evening made all the difference for coach Nadav Zilberstein’s squad. Cook led all scorers with 24 points going 5/8 from deep, Chris Dowe complemented him with 22 points of his own while Tal Dunne flirted with a triple-double scoring 9 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists. DiBartolomeo dropped 19 points and Johnny O’Bryant finished the game with a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds.
1) You could feel how the game was going that there was going to be a “winner shot”. The question was which team would hit it? After Maccabi Captain John DiBartolomeo drilled home what seemed to be the game winner with 16 seconds left, there would still be one possession left for Nes Ziona to win it and everyone and I mean everyone in the building knew that the ball was going to be on the hands of Daequan Cook. He got the ball and did what all great shooters do, take the winner shot. “I have confidence in my jump shot. We let a few games slide so we are happy we could prove to ourselves and the fans that we are capable of playing on that level.”
2) DiBartolomeo had hoped he hit the winner, but Cook’s 3 gave the host’s the win but knew full well that the game didn’t exactly come down to just one last shot. “I was hoping it would be, but I knew there as a lot of time left on the clock for them to get an opportunity. Got to give them some credit, Cook made a big shot and DeAndre played great defense and did what he had to but sometimes it’s just not enough. We should have played better throughout the game, it’s not one possession that decides it.” Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos also commented on his team’s effort, “Maccabi has good players and all of them are ready. Our focus tonight wasn’t enough.”
3) Nes Ziona Coach Nadav Zilberstein was thrilled when I asked him about having a shooter like Daequan Cook on his team, “When he misses I’m always surprised. I have never coached a shooter at this level. He gives us a lot in many aspects. He is very calm and does huge defensive work on a team level. He knows to say the right thing at the right time and he is one of our main leaders.” For those that haven’t seen Cook play in Israel over the last two seasons, boy have you missed something special. He’s arguably the best shooter in the league hands down.
Maccabi has a busy, very busy schedule coming up. Bnei Herzliya on Tuesday, Baskonia Thursday, Hapoel Jerusalem on Saturday, Khimki on Wednesday and Zalgiris on Friday. That’s not an easy road to say the least but the Yellow & Blue are going to have to get much better play out of all of their Israelis against Herzliya and Jerusalem than they did against Nes Ziona. Jake Cohen 3 points in only 11 minutes, Nimrod Levi 2 points in 7 minutes, Yovel Zoosman 4 points in 24 minutes, Deni Avdija 3 points in 9 minutes is just not enough. Only DiBartolomeo with 19 points and Tyus with 7 points and 6 rebounds earned their keep. Sfairopoulos needs his Blue & White to step up.