A press conference was held at the Jerusalem Arena ahead of the Israel Basketball State Cup semifinals which will be held Monday night beginning with Maccabi Tel Aviv against Maccabi Ashdod at 18:45 followed by Hapoel Jerusalem versus Hapoel Holon at 21:15.
Here are some notes and quotes:
1) Hapoel Holon will have a rough time to make it three in a row over Jerusalem because of Khalif Wyatt’s injury. Wyatt had scored 25 points in each of the victories and his absence will be crucial in this contest. Tu Holloway has arrived, but he’s only been here a couple of days and it will be a challenge for Head Coach Dan Shamir to get him into the rotation properly. My guess is that Jordan Taylor will be the one to pick in the slack, but how far will Holon be able to really go in the game?
2) There was much controversy over Holon’s Roie Huber who was supposed to feature in the Air Force match the morning of the semifinal. Thankfully, Miri Regev stepped in and the AF game was pushed off. It would have been a real hit should Huber had to have played in the morning and then suit up again in the early evening for a shorthanded Holon.
3) Maccabi Tel Aviv finally registered Devin Smith for the State Cup games. After rumors surfaced on Saturday that Quincy Miller was injured and had missed practice, it was only logical that Smith would get the call. He seemed quite happy when interviewed at practice that he would have the opportunity to contribute and not stay on the sidelines. Smith’s had an up and down season on the court in Euroleague action and perhaps this will give him the necessary consistency of playing a couple of games a week to get him back into the rhythm.
4) Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani is trying to keep the pressure off of his players as much as possible and said that the goal in all competitions is to get to a position where you are one of the last teams. Sure that may be the goal, to always have a chance to win, but believe you me, Pianigiani and Jerusalem want to put another piece of hardware away in the trophy case. There’s no question that they want to win and that is the goal of the next few days in the capital. Anything less will be a disappointment and they all know that.
5) Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Ainars Bagatskis, wants to win the Cup as well. In fact, all of the coaches want to. But Bagatskis knows that of all of the four teams, he has the most pressure to win just due to the fact that the Yellow & Blue have won 7 straight. Winning the Cup would be a huge accomplishment for Maccabi should they win because of the rough season they’ve been having and truth be told, I wouldn’t be shocked if they did. Bagatskis wants to win and there are two games left to go in order for him to bring home the Cup. Can they do it? Time will tell.
6) No one really thinks that Ashdod has a chance to win the Cup but Meir Tapiro is certainly happy to be one of the final four teams. Adam Ariel was at the presser and he certainly would like to face Jerusalem in the final. The same is true for Jake Cohen who would love to take down both Maccabi and Hapoel, but do they have enough firepower to do so? They are the underdogs of underdogs. But who knows what can happen in a one game shootout.
Maccabi Tel Aviv Captain
Importance of the State Cup: “It’s so no secret that we’ve been having a tough year, but we can finish this week off with a title and that’s very important to both the team and the fans. We have come into the game, work hard and do what we need to.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv Head Coach
About the two wins against Ashdod this season: “Those games are in the past and I’m sure that Ashdod will prepare and show us that those games were an accident. We know why we’re here and we know the prize that’s available. We must play a full 40 minutes of basketball.”
Playing with one team:
“At the beginning of the season there were 3 teams and when Sonny Weeks and Maik Zirbes left, there was yet another team. I want to try and use my players all of the time in all of the games.”
The Yellow & Blue have won 7 straight State Cups:
“Of course we want to win it eight times in a row. Before the last game we all said we have to win each game. I will take this very personally, I want to win the Cup”
Hapoel Jerusalem Captain
Desire to win the Cup: “We don’t really look at what was in the past. We all want to win the Cup. But we have to work very hard and we are playing a team that has beaten us twice this season. We’re at home, but it’s still a challenge. There are no favorites in these types of games.”
Hapoel Jerusalem Head Coach
About their opponent Hapoel Holon: “It’s a team that makes the game and not just one player. They play great and they have a good system. Not only has Dan Shamir beaten me twice here but also twice with Sienna. I want to win and maybe it’s time for us to do something different. There are four clubs left and the atmosphere will be different. I won the Cup four times in Italy and once in Turkey. Whoever will mange their emotions best, will arrive at the end. These games will be decided by the small details.”
Competing in all competitions:
“It’s important for the club to be at the end of every competition. We have faced a number of these types of elimination games and we are playing for the Cup. Everybody has a chance now, but it’s important as to how the team arrived at this point. We had desires in the summer as to where we wanted to be, but we also have some injuries. We are an underdog because we came back from Russia and Dan Shamir had more time to prepare for the game. I hope that we can bring home a trophy now for our fans, but what’s most important is that the club competes for a trophy at the end of each competition.”