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“When I have the opportunity I should take it” – Maccabi drops Hapoel 85-72; leads series 2-0

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Maccabi Tel Aviv used a strong fourth quarter to down Hapoel Tel Aviv 85-72 to take a 2-0 lead in their series and will look to advance to the Final Four on Thursday with another victory. For thirty minutes the squads matched each other almost shot for shot but Scottie Wilbekin and Jake Cohen led the yellow-and-blue to a 28-15 fourth quarter to take the victory. Cohen led Maccabi with 21 points, Wilbekin scored 19 points while Yovel Zoosman dropped 15 points in the win. Stu Douglass was Hapoel’s high scorer with 16 points as Tomer Ginat and Rich Howell each had 15 points a piece.

Wilbekin and Cohen helped Maccabi to a slim 10-7 advantage while Ginat was Hapoel’s lone scorer early on. But Stu Douglass hit a pair of triples to give the host’s a 22-19 lead after ten minutes of play. In a rough and tumble second quarter, Alex Tyus and Tarik Black combined to give the yellow-and-blue a slim 38-37 lead at halftime.

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Douglass continued to have the hot hand for Hapoel but Zoosman ensured that Maccabi maintained their 1-point, 48-47 lead midway through the third quarter. However, as the period moved along, Howell controlled the paint and Douglass hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to tie the contest up at 71-71 heading into the final frame.

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Both squads fought tooth and nail early on in the fourth quarter but Wilbekin began to take over the game for Maccabi and gave the yellow-and-blue a 72-67 lead with 3:29 left in the contest. But a Cohen triple, and baskets by Black and Wilbekin gave Maccabi the 85-72 win.

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3-Pointers
1) Maccabi had a number of terrific performances against Hapoel Tel Aviv at the Drive-In. Scottie Wilbekin bookended the game nicely, Yovel Zoosman hit one big triple after the next while Jake Cohen was fantastic throughout the 40 minutes. What did Cohen think of his 21 point game? “I felt really good and it’s a fun place to play in. It’s especially challenging because of what happened last game and we got a big win. It feels really good but now we are going to focus on winning game 3 closing out the series.” The Israel National Team forward also talked about the changes that the Yellow & Blue made at halftime and how the took home the win, “Not every game is going to be perfect, Hapoel Tel Aviv plays tough but we figured it out. I thought we made a lot of good adjustments at half time and came out a little bit more patient, focused and executed with a little bit more precision. I think that made a big difference in the second half as we stoped rushing, slowed down and things came a little bit better for us.”

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2) Yovel Zoosman entered the 2019 NBA Draft and is slated to get selected in the second round and his game versus the Reds certainly helped his stock and Zoos came to play in a very, very tough arena. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos commented on his young prodigy, “I’ve spoken about him a lot of times during this season and I think he’s progressing. He’s young, needs to improve and can play much better and be much more stable He’s making progress in building his game but today he was also excellent defensively. So it’s not just the scoring stats, it’s on the defensive end that he was very good. He needs to stay humble and has to keep working to improve his game and his stability on the performances.” Cohen also talked about making sure that if he has a shot he should take it, “Zoos was incredible. He shot the ball with confidence tonight. We have been trying to communicate to him. He’s a great shooter when he’s open and we have confidence in him. He played great tonight and that’s why we have confidence in him.” Finally Zoosman himself spoke sheepishly and modestly about his 15 point performance, “Every player at Maccabi works hard day and night for these moments. I shoot the basketball hundreds of times a day and I always take my shots with confidence. At half-time Michael Roll told me to shoot more on offense and when I have the opportunity that I should take it. My teammates gave me the chance to hit some 3-pointers and I am happy that they went in.”

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3) Stu Douglass was the Stu Douglass that we love to see. The former Michigan guard who so much enjoys taking a triple and draining a three from anywhere on the floor, has been the victim of a situation this season and hasn’t gotten much playing time and a chance to show his wares. Averaging 12.4mpg and 4pg, Douglass can be doing much, much more and it’s a pity that he hasn’t had the time to do so. Coach Danny Franco spoke about Douglass, “Stu has been a tough situation all season long just like number of players on the team. He’s paid the price since the start of the campaign. I’ll say this in defense of Stu that it’s very tough to come off the bench when there are other players like Jamal Shuler and Jerel McNeal who are foreigners that play the same position as well as other Israelis. He’s not a kid and he’s very experienced. He’s in a tough situation with the club and I can appreciate as to what he did.” I was talking to another naturalized Israeli a few nights ago about the situation Douglass is in and that he may be frozen out because the league is going to play only 1 Israeli on the court at all times instead of two, and that would be a shame. As well, a person within Hapoel couldn’t stop singing the praises to me about Douglass and just how bad he feels that he didn’t have an opportunity to really be the player that they knew they were getting. The individual also said the nicest things I’ve ever heard about any basketball player in the country and I don’t think there is anyone finer than Stu.

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Overtime
How did Stu Douglas feel about his performance? “It felt good. I have been telling him (Franco) I’ll always be ready and I know the rotations are really tough, very deep at the wing but you know I have been doing this for a while now so I stay ready and when an opportunity comes like this you just take advantage of it.” And take advantage of it he did. It would be a huge loss to Israeli basketball if a person like Douglass isn’t playing in the top level of the sport in this country next season. Believe me, we need more Stu Douglasses here, the more the merrier.