Maccabi Tel Aviv in dominant fashion defeated Hapoel Holon 95-75 to win the Israel Basketball Winner League Championship. Alex Tyus was named MVP of the Final 4 as he scored 10 points and collected 15 rebounds in the decisive game. Jake Cohen dropped 18 points grabbed 6 rebounds and stole 4 balls in the win while Michael Roll (15p), Norris Cole (13p), John Dibartolomeo (13p) and DeAndre Kane (10p) all scored in double digits to bring home the title for the first time since 2014. Tu Holloway scored 20 points as Glen Rice Jr. (14p) and Joe Alexander (13p) led Holon.
Maccabi Tel Aviv quickly ran out to a 24-5 run totally dominating and outpacing Holon early on. Dan Shamir inserted Glen Rice Jr. less than 3 minutes into the game but he was only able to produce 3 points all from the charity stripe in the quarter as the Yellow & Blue led 28-17 after ten minutes of play. Jake Cohen had a active opening frame with 9 points to lead Maccabi while Tu Holloway had 9 points as well for Holon. Michael Roll led the way for Maccabi in the second quarter scoring 5 of his 11 points as Rice Jr. ended the frame with 5 points but the Yellow & Blue extended their lead to 47-31 by the halftime break. Holon committed 10 turnovers to Maccabi’s 3 while the Yellow & Blue had 7 steals and 4 blocked shots.
Holon went on a 5-0 run to begin the third quarter and Rice dropped 9 points in the frame but Norris Cole and John Dibartolomeo quelled the storm as Maccabi took a 21 point, 68-47 lead into the final quarter of the season. A what a end to the season we had as the Yellow & Blue padded their stats to win the championship game 95-75 and lifted the Championship Plate in celebration!
1) Maccabi Tel Aviv are champions for the first time since 2014. That’s a long time for a team that has now won 52 Israel League Basketball titles and the fact that they did it with pretty much a brand new team makes it that much sweeter for the players and the coach Neven Spahija, “It’s a really special feeling and I don’t have the words to explain it. I consider this the most difficult season in my career with so many games, no time to recover and no time to practice. At the end of the day, we found a way to win the championship with 12 new players. It’s not easy to create chemistry with 12 new people but we bounced up and down, lost the Cup, didn’t get to the final 8 of the Euroleague and this game was like ten months in 40 minutes. We did it, but we did it the right way. We won the game but it was the way did it. I don’t think anyone else did it as we did.” Captain John Dibartolomeo also reflected on the building a new team, “We grew throughout this year and we were a brand new team coming together. I hope next year we can take another step further and continue to grow.”
2) What was the key to winning the championship and playing such quality ball over the past few weeks? Jake Cohen spoke about exactly that, “There’s a certain factor of trust. We started to play well together both offensively and defensively. Not everything will goes well on every possession and Basketball is a game of mistakes. But if you trust the guy next to you to do his job and you’re playing for your teammates you’re going to play well. We turned it up to another level in the playoffs. We knew our potential all year and we came together at the right time.” Michael Roll also chimed in, “It’s a long season and we played a lot of games. But we dug in and came out to try to get the other teams right away. We imposed our will.” John Dibartolomeo, “We played together and played with intensity on both ends of the floor. When we’re able to dictate and play good defense we can get out in the open floor we can be a very, very, very tough team to play.”
3) But what was the biggest factor that gave Maccabi an advantage over the other teams? It was two things each starting with the letter P, practice and Pargo, “I spoke about the importance of practice all season and because of the rule of having two Israeli players on the court at all time which is not played in Europe. Since we finished the Euroleague, we started to breathe and started to practice the strike helped us as we practiced and didn’t stop. I think that was also an important part. Playing every three days with a different roster made it very difficult. I really don’t understand how to work under the condition but we found a way. The addition of Jeremy Pargo was so important for us.”
Norris Cole is one of a very select few along with Beno Udrih and Omri Casspi (will receive a ring with Golden State) who won an NBA Championship and an Israeli League title. I spoke to him following the game about a number of subjects and began with telling him that he is part of a very exclusive club. “It’s got a nice ring to it, don’t it? It feels good. We works hard and we played well. Personally I feel very good about this championship.”
Keys to the win:
“We’re Maccabi and that’s what’s expected of us. That’s why they brought us here for. You want to play your best basketball towards the end of the season and we did. We kept practicing together, kept an open mind and kept working hard and when it was money time we all stepped up.”
What will he take back home from his season in Israel?
“I’m gonna take the energy from The Gate with me. I’m going to take all the love from the fans and I’m going to take this championship. The whole culture has been great from learning the National Anthem, it’s been a great experience.”
Having his father “Pops”with him throughout the season in Israel:
“It was like having a piece of him with me. It made things easier for me mentally having a familiar face and voice and I played better when he was here. It was good having my Pops here from Day One and he’s been with me for every championship. I’m blessed to have him with me.”