Going out on a high note: Maccabi’s Wilbekin talks Euroleague campaign, fan support and what Israeli League decision does he disagree with?

GOING OUT ON HIGH NOTE

Maccabi Tel Aviv went out on a high note that their 2020/21 Euroleague campaign came to an end with a convincing win over Khimki Moscow 92-62 in front of the Yellow & Blue faithful ahead of the balance of the domestic campaign which includes the State Cup Final and the Israel Basketball Winner League. It wasn’t much of a surprise that Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad was going to win the game as they were playing by far the worst team in the Euroleague, but it was the way they did it. The Yellow & Blue just walloped the Russian squad in every aspect of the game, whether it was rebounds 45-34, assists 21-14 and 3-point shooting 11/28 to 2/22 (YIKES). It was a blowout of all blowouts and they made sure to take the win handily as the fans cheered throughout the quick 1:30 contest. “We’re all happy that we played a good game and that it was our last home game,” explained Sfairopoulos. “We knew our opponent was a weak team but we showed seriousness and we were concentrated from all the players and I am very satisfied. We had some small goals in the game and most we succeeded, six players in double, digits, rebounds and assists shows that we were very concentrated. We are happy that the fans were excited and we hope that we will have them with us for the Israeli League and the rest of the season.” After the players were in the lockerroom at halftime, Sfairopoulos gathered them together on the court before the start of the second half and spoke to his team for a couple of minutes. I asked the bench boss what he said, “I told them to be serious, although I had already said it in the lockerroom. We are human beings and when you see the score at halftime, if you don’t start the second half the right way you can be nervous and the good picture that we had in the first half could change.”

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

BOTHERED

Scottie Wilbekin, Maccabi’s star guard began the game with a blast as he scored 13 points in the opening quarter. Should he have played 40 minutes, perhaps he would have scored 40 points as he went 3/3 from deep and had a perfect shooting night overall to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Wilbekin was very frank and honest with his comments following the contest about seeing how well they played in the final home game and if they could have done better this campaign, “I don’t think that one win shows that we could have had a better season. At the start of the season we could have done better and after the break we didn’t get going well. Today everything went our way. The Florida product who is in his third season with the club also discussed what the fans chanting his name throughout the game meant to him, “I felt that they were trying to show love and show how much they care. The team has been struggling and I have been as well and I felt they were saying that they still love me.” Finally, Wilbekin shared his thoughts on what has been a very long season and perhaps even two, “It’s been a tough season, not only because we were losing but feeling like it was two seasons pushed together and not getting time off and do what we normally do in the summer and spend time with our families. Those in the Israeli league didn’t care to make a decision like the rest of the leagues and I was really bothered by that. I hope they won’t do that again so we can have a regular summer. We have two more titles left in the Israeli league and we want to finish off as best as we can.”

Oz Blayzer – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

BLAZING A PATH

Oz Blayzer recorded his Euroleague career high with 11 points including a beauty of a reverse dunk and a number of quality plays for the fans including two very special ones. “My son saw me play for the first time and my wife also came since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. I haven’t seen them at a game in a long time. I’m glad that I was able to play well and I hope it continues.” This was the first season for the forward in the top continental competition which was definitely a learning experience but one that eh will be able to build off of going forward after playing a shade over ten minutes a games while averaging 2.4 points. “When I signed here I prepared myself for every situation if I would play or not. I’m happy that I played and I feel that I did some good things and contributed to the club.” Blayzer of course would have liked that Maccabi perform better in the Euroleague and its left a bit of a bittersweet taste after winning the final home game, but nonetheless the 28-year old will take it as yet another building block in his career, “Of course we feel we missed out a bit and that we could have done better, but we have to learn and get better and continue on. Despite that this was very important to end the season well and give the fans some joy. We came in ready to go and played well.”

Dori Sahar – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

YOUNGLINGS

Up and coming Maccabi swingman Dori Sahar was registered for the game and TJ Cline had to watch the proceedings from the sidelines this time around as the 20-year old was able to play 15 minutes of Euroleague action where he scored a 3-pointer and grabbed 4 rebounds in what was his longest outing to date. Yonatan Atias who is also 20 years old played a few minutes as well in what was his second continental game after making a cameo in the win over Zalgiris earlier in the season. “I’m happy for Dori and Yonatan,” Sfairopoulos began. “Dori is someone we count a lot and it was good he participated in the Euroleague game. They have to be ready for the Israeli league games coming up.”

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