Hapoel will continue to battle as Maccabi looks to polish off Tel Aviv Derby Championship series

Jun 14, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv may have taken game one over Hapoel Tel Aviv 84-76 in their Israel basketball championship series but it’s clear as day that the reds, although shorthanded and injured are not going to give up and are going to give it their all back at home in the friendly confines of the Drive in Arena in what is a do or die game two.

Stefanos Dedas’s team is not the same as Danny Franco’s squad from last season that is for sure and with about seven players in his rotation with some not close to 100% he has a very, very tall order. But after seeing how the Greek tactician was able to stay with Oded Katash’s charges for close to 40 minutes in game one there is no reason to think that the reds won’t be able to do the same in front of their faithful close to 3,000 strong.

Stefanos Dedas – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

However, there is still no doubt that Maccabi is the deeper team and is fresher in this series which ultimately can make the difference, but one can not rule out the will and the desire of the bench boss or his star Israeli player and national team captain Tomer Ginat.

“We have been in this situation before with our backs against the wall,” Hapoel Head Coach Stefanos Dedas said. “The semifinals built some character and if we correct some mistakes, going back home with our fans we can tie the series. We had a good game plan both on defense and offense and kept us in the game for 37 minutes and we could have won the game.”

“The days off that each team had isn’t relevant,” Ginat commented. “They had more time to rest than we did, but we have to make our moves and come into game two and win the game and come back here for game three. But exhaustion is not a factor.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Katash had a game plan and that was to wear out Hapoel which they did by the end of the game, but one concerning factor was the fact that Maccabi could have made their lives a lot easier and in some respects looked as if they were treating game one of the finals like a league Derby.

Emotions were low key as was the yellow-and-blue defense especially in the first quarter of the game, but when the chips were sitting on the table with five minutes to go and the game all knotted up at 68-68, Maccabi was able to make the winning plays as Lorenzo Brown and especially Bonzie Colson hit winning shots while the defense ratcheted it up.

“We got some big time performances by Lorenzo Brown and Bonzie Colson,” Jake Cohen commented. “We did a good job getting stops and they only scored 16 points in the fourth quarter which was a big time improvement, we buckled down in the fourth and that was huge.”

Bonzie Colson – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

“The game is how we expected it to be with a lot of pressure,” Maccabi Tel Aviv Head Coach Oded Katash said. “It was a fast paced game which we like to play but we weren’t aggressive enough, but we really played good defense in the fourth and that was what won the game. The pressure is on us in a best-of-3 game series. We held onto the ball well down the stretch and it wasn’t the nicest basketball game that was played but we ended up winning.”

If Maccabi comes into game two the same way as they did game one they will have a very tough time polishing off the series in a sweep. Last year Katash came into the second game at the Drive In with a chance to walk out as champions but instead they were blasted by close to 40 points in a game that was never close in a very hostile environment.

While Cohen claimed not to really recall that game until it was mentioned in the post game press conference, it was certainly on Katash’s mind and for truth’s sake, if it isn’t on every Maccabi player’s head that experienced it, perhaps they need a reality check.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“I haven’t even thought about it until you just mentioned it,” Cohen chuckled. “I don’t think that this will have any effect as it’s a different team and these ate different experiences and it won’t have any effect on Saturday night. We will prepare and they are a good team and a desparate team that needs to win. They will play super hard and I’ve been looking at the quotes by Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla who says that the more desperate they are the more dangerous they are.”

For Katash, that defeat seemed to be right front and center in what was a crazy game that also saw a lengthy delay due to flares and the fans going a bit over the edge, “We all remember what happened in game two last year at the Drive In. But the fans here at game one kept it at a sportsmanlike level and that’s what I hope will be the case also on Saturday night.”

The fans will for sure play a factor in the game but as Dedas said after the game one semifinal loss to Kirayt Ata is that they can’t play offense and defense and that has to be the players on the court and those at the end of the day will be the ones that he trusts when it comes down to crunch time.

Hapoel Tel Aviv fans – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

“We played great at the end of the third quarter. The short rotation gives more responsibility to the guys who are on the floor and who feel the game. We scored enough for this type of game and we should defend better. You need the guys you trust.”

“Going to the Drive In is obviously going to be different but we can’t count on what we did last year. Our backs are against the wall and the fans will root us on but we have to go in and play basketball,” Ginat said.

Maccabi will give Hapoel all the respect in the world as they should especially due to the fact that they have never won a deciding championship game at Reds home as they will try to make history. But as Katash explained, Hapoel has plenty firepower to find a way to win on their home court.

Tomer Ginat – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

“We are playing against a very good team with talent. They were able to get by Kiryat Ata in a difficult series and they had a tough time until the last game. It’s a challenge for us at their home court and Hapoel Tel Aviv is a good team finding a way to beat them on Saturday night will be our challenge.”

Cohen echoed his coach’s thoughts, “They are a good team and we know it won’t be easy. They have good players and we knew it was going to be a fight and we had no expectation that we would blow them out. They have talent and they are dangerous.”

Hapoel and Dedas will use that underdog mentality as they look to even up the series but also may have to see what he can do with his roster that is really just holding on due to the injuries as Bar Timor picked up what looked to be a foot issue while Xavier Munford also had to got to the lockerrroom to receive treatment during the game. Add to that fact that Angola is nowhere near 100% and did dress the coach may have to make a change if he deems necessary.

Stefanos Dedas – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

“We have confidence and we can win this title. As for making any lineup changes, we will see the condition of the players and according to this we will see what we will do.”

Maccabi and Katash also has injury issues to a lesser extent as Wade Baldwin has been out for over a month due to a hamstring injury that he picked up in the Panathinaikos Euroleague quarterfinal series but a change in their lineup seems very unlikely at best. Jasiel Rivero took a knock to his foot during the game while Josh Nebo retuned after a foot injury that he suffered in game one of the semifinal series against Hapoel Jerusalem, but there is no question that having bigs on the court is one of the yellow-and-blue’s big advantage and that will not be something Katash will change.

“This has been a game changer for us all season long and we will keep playing with two bigs and that is what wins us games. We scored a lot of easy points off of rebounds and on the inside which makes us dominant in league play.”

Josh Nebo – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

With that recipe, Maccabi should be able to wrap up the series whether it will be in game two or back at Yad Eliyahu in a game three winner take all on Monday night. But one thing for sure is that Cohen wants to walk away after the campaign with a title.

“It would be a great cherry on top of the season, I think we have had an incredible amount of challenges. To imagine a season where we we don’t win the championship would be really, really tough. But I don’t think me or any of the guys are looking at the negative side, we just need to look now at what we can do to improve from game one. We have a lot of stuff that we can get better at and we know it’s going to be tough over there on their court. We are focused on what we can do to win the game. What happens after then I’ll give you a good answer as to what it means.”

Sign up for our newsletter


You may also like…


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!