Maccabi Tel Aviv took home the Winner Cup for a record 7th time with a convincing 93-79 win over an overmatched Nahariya. Alex Tyus led the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds while Deshaun Thomas dropped 20 points in the win. Alex Young scored 23 points for Nahariya as Denzel Livingstone added 13 points in the defeat.
Both teams started off slowly but when Coach Neven Spahija inserted Yovel Zoosman and he hit the Yellow & Blue’s first 3 pointer of the game Maccabi was off and running thanks in part to 6 points by Alex Tyus to take a 22-15 lead after 10 minutes.
With the offense beginning to click on all cylinders, Maccabi pulled out to a 13 point lead, 49-36 after 20 minutes thanks to sharp shooting by John DiBartolomeo and Deshaun Thomas while Tyus, Bolden and Mashour controlled the boards.
The 3rd frame was more of the same from the Spahija’s squad as Michael Roll and Bolden provided the offense to give Maccabi a 73-57 advantage following 30 minutes. Nahariya tried to reel in the Yellow & Blue over the final quarter but Maccabi was able to quell the threat as they wrapped up the first domestic title of the season with a 93-79 win.
1) The first quarter began slow and sluggish until Coach Neven Spahija made his first substitutions of the game inserting Alex Tyus and Yovel Zoosman as the latter nailed the first 3-pointer of the game sending Maccabi on their way. Tyus was unstoppable all game long as Nahariya couldn’t find an answer for the athletic center. But let’s go back to Zoosman. The 17-year old played over 25 minutes and was on the court during crunch time during the final 5 minutes of the contest when the northern side pulled to within 8 points. Now that’s earning your coach’s trust. Not bad for the youngster who has a very, very bright future ahead of him.
“We want to develop young players and we have to out him into trouble, Spahija said. “We want to let him be a decision maker. He had some great minutes and some bad minutes but that’s the way to develop. If you ask me how he played over the 3 games, what he did was impressive for such a young player that has never played at this level.” Zoosman himself also spoke about his performance, “Once the first couple went in I gained confidence but I have to give credit to my teammates as well. I was very happy that the coach gave me so many minutes but I have to defend better and I know that’s something that I can do and will be key in my development and for me continuing to play. I’m happy to be in these big games and I’m happy that I have this opportunity.” I have a feeling that this is not going to be the only time that Zoosman will be playing in the do or die moments of a game.
2) Winner Cup Tournament MVP John Dibartolomeo may not have had the biggest game of his career with 11 points and 3 assists but his lockdown defense on Corey Webster helped put the game to bed. JDB didn’t give the New Zealand native any room to breathe for a second and closed up shop on #9. The ever humble JDB wouldn’t take credit and of course complimented his team, “He was a focus of ours, but no one is playing defense by themselves.” Picking up his first piece of Israeli hardware, the Rochester University graduate couldn’t have looked more natural when hoisting the Cup with Captain Itay Segev. “It feels good to win a championship, but I think we have to keep things in perspective as it’s just the preseason and there is a lot of work to do.” It may be early, very, very early but it’s akwsys good to take home a title and the case is no different. Maccabi hopes that this will be the first of many this coming campaign.
3) I’m not quite sure who is going to beat Maccabi in the Israeli league this season if the past few games is any indication. The Yellow & Blue couldn’t have played much better basketball and that was with without 3 key players in DeAndre Kane, Pierre Jackson and Norris Cole. Controlling the boards (54-28), keeping the turnovers down, good passing and solid defending was the winning formula for Maccabi. The real question will be how the will play in the Euroleague. How will Israel’s lone representative fare in continental action when they face the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Olympiacos, Red Star… that’s a question that still remains as the Yellow & Blue kick off the Euroleague season next Thursday night on the road against Bamberg in Germany. The following week they’ll welcome Baskonia and then Olympiacos. Spahija has said that patience will be key and that certainly rings true as everything me tried to keep the Winner Cup title in perspective. We all have to remember that both the Israel and continental seasons are marathons and not sprints.
It will be interesting to see his Nahariya will play at home this coming Sunday when they host their arch nemesis and defending champs Hapoel Jerusalem. Stu Douglass discussed playing another game after 3 this past week, “I guess we’ll see and time will tell. We are pretty beat up and we are in used to the type of schedule. I’m sure we will be prepared for Sunday and I’ll be able to answer the question better then.” On one hand it’s great to play a bunch of games to get into the rhythm, but the amount of action can definitely tire you out especially if you don’t have a deep bench. That is going to be something that Coach Arik Alfasi will have to address going into the season. They now have only a few days to rest and recover to get ready for Jerusalem, a team they just beat this week and one that is a wounded animal. That is when they are most dangerous. Nahariya has a tough task ahead if them regardless of the situation Hapoel Jerusalem is in.