Can’t get too high or too low: Jerusalem & Maccabi ready for Israel State Cup supremacy

Feb 15, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

The Classico Israel State Cup Final between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will tip-off on Thursday (20:45) at the Jerusalem Arena as new champion will be crowned by the end of the evening.

The Yellow & Blue will look to capture their first cup since 2021 when they defeated Maccabi Rishon LeZion while the Reds will try and win the cup that they held for two seasons in a row, 2019 and 2020. In fact, the Hapoel head coach for those two titles is current Maccabi bench boss Oded Katash who won the cup in the capital city over Rishon and then against Nahariya at Yad Eliyahu. The last two times the pair of teams played one another for the State Cup was in 2017 when Maccabi downed their Jerusalem hosts 82-68.

However, that is all history and in the past as both teams are in the here and in the now as they both vie for State Cup supremacy.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: IBBA

“It’s a special week and anything can happen in a one game,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said ahead of the big game. “It’s a celebration of basketball and we want this and we are ready for it. This is a great challenge and we can’t wait.”

As the Yellow & Blue can’t wait to get going, Hapoel’s man on the sidelines Aleksandar Dzikic feels that his crew won’t need much to get them motivated, “We are playing against Maccabi and I don’t have to explain who they are. We will be ready to compete against them.”

John Dibartolomeo – Photo Credit: IBBA

The players themselves are well aware of the importance of the matchup as Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo who has been part of the club for six seasons will look to win his second State Cup, “The Cup is important for me, we are team oriented and have team goals. Being in Maccabi for this long it would be more special, we’ve come up short a couple of times.”

“This is very important,” Jarell Martin explained. “The guys have been talking about it for the last week. It’s been a couple years since the club had won it last. We know it will be hostile and we need to control what we can and that is on the floor. We are ready to get after them and to compete hard.”

Itay Segev – Photo Credit: IBBA

With the game in Jerusalem, Hapoel will have a partisan crowd behind them which they are most looking forward to as they hope that will give them a little bit of an edge in the final.

“It’s an important game for us and the fans,” captain Itay Segev said. “We will give it our all. We have to do our job and it starts with defense. It’s a big game and there is a lot of excitement. I’m happy to be here and I hope we can take a big step for the club.”

Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: The Sports Rabbi

Levi Randolph also spoke about the contest and having the home town behind them, “Can’t get too high or too low. As a pro you look forward to games like this, big crowd high intensity. We want to come ready. We have to play good defense and do whatever it takes to help the team win. We love our fans we want to give them as much as possible, we want to fight. We want to go out there and play high effort. We just got to go and execute the game-plan.”

Part of that game plan for the Reds will need to be getting off to a good start and not falling into trouble as they have done recently Zach Hankins explained, “We know what our faults are. Past couple games we had defensive breakdowns. We need to start with a strong mindset and follow that up during the whole game. We try to approach every game to come into it and win. It would be big to win this trophy.”

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: The Sports Rabbi

While Maccabi fell to Jerusalem in league play earlier in the season, both squads were a bit different as Lorenzo Brown and Bonzie Colson did not feature for Katash while Noam Yaacov was not yet with the Reds.

“It’s big to have Zo as he is the backbone of the team. His leadership has been tremendous for us. He is the guy for our team,” Martin said excitedly.

Jarell Martin – Photo Credit: The Sports Rabbi

Randolph will need to contend with some of those Maccabi players who they will see for the first time, “Even though there is a different dynamic we come with what we have and they will with what they have.”

After helping Dzkic’s squad punch their ticket to the final, it’s not exactly clear how much time Yaacov will feature, but he will most definitely be part of the plan the Serbian bench boss said.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo Credit: IBBA

“I think Noam’s agent will be satisfied and that you are putting him in the same sentence as Wade [Baldwin] and Lorenzo [Brown]. It may not be against those players, but I believe that he will be on the floor.”

Hankins is confident that Hapoel will be able to do what they need to and that Yaacov won’t have an issue against the high octane Maccabi offense, “I think for us we did good job integrating the guys into our system and working on our defensive aspects. We can shut down high offensive teams so we need to stuck to our guys and our system.”

The bottom line is that if Maccabi wants to hoist the trophy at the end of the night, Dibartolomeo said they will need to focus on the little things, “We talk about the small details all the time. It’s not the last play, but playing consistent and throughout the entire game. We have to be extra focused and put in the effort from all of us to get the cup.”

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