Hapoel takes the Tel Aviv League Derby 77-73

**Maccabi Tel Aviv released an update about Norris Cole and said that the guard will be out for 2-3 weeks with a small hamstring tear and won’t fly with the team for the Real madrid game.

Hapoel Tel Aviv avenged their State Cup Derby loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv with a 77-73 win at Yad Eliyahu in league play. The Reds controlled the flow of play throughout the matchup taking a 19-4 lead after just 5 minutes, leaving the Yellow & Blue shellshocked and trying to dig out of a hole for the balance of the game. Rafi Menco took home the MVP honors scoring 17 points while pulling down 6 rebounds as Ty McKee, Adrian Banks and Tomer Ginat each stooped 13 points in the win. Michael Roll led the host’s with 13 points as Norris Cole ended the evening with 11 points and Pierre Jackson finished with 10 points in the loss.

1) The big mystery coming out of the game was why Norris Cole wasn’t on the floor in crunch time over the last 5 minutes of the contest. I asked Coach Neven Spahija that question at the postgame press conference and he said, “He got hurt and at that point he had 5 turnovers, hit in the leg and didn’t feel good. I tried to find the best 5 people to bring the game to the end and I couldn’t.”

I had the opportunity to ask Norris Cole if he was surprised not to be in the game at the end and he said, “Were you? Of course I’m surprised, but it happens.” Cole continued about how he felt, “I’m fine, I’m alright.” He then went on about not being in the game over the last few minutes, “I don’t know and it’s not my call so I don’t know.”

According to the coach, turnovers, finding the right rotation and injury we’re the reasons why Cole wasn’t on the court in crunch time?
“That’s what he said (with a smirk and laugh). Ok, he’s the coach.”

Disappointed about the loss:
“We’re going to stay together. Obviously we are disappointed with the loss but we are going to be fine, we are going to stay together.”

After a great win, the team loses the next game:
“Weird things seem to happen out there, after big wins. Weird stuff that I don’t really want to talk about. We must do better.”

Add to that that Norris Cole ended his night with a +14 while Pierre Jackson was a -14. There certainly is something weird going on, very weird and everyone has got to be on the same page if Maccabi wants to take their game to the next level.

2) Maccabi turned over the ball 19(!) times which didn’t help them much as Hapoel converted those faux pas into 22 points. Cole committed 5 turnovers as Jackson coughed up the ball 4 times in the matchup while the latter also went an abysmal 3/14 from the field and 0/6 over the last quarter. With those numbers you’ve got to be saying some extra prayers in order to win.

3) John DiBartolomeo, Jake Cohen and Yovel Zoosman each had decent games for Maccabi. After last Derby’s 4/4 3-point display, Cohen only hit 1/5 but was able to pull down 7 rebounds, record a +9 while infecting a certain energy into the team when they were down by double digits. Both Zoosman and Dibartolomeo each hit two 3-pointers and ended their evening with 8 points each. Spahija has been using many more of the players that he has at his disposal and that will help him down the road when he may need some of those extra hands in critical situations.

Hapoel came out focused and raced to a 15 point lead after just 5 minutes of action led by Menco with 8 of his points in the first quarter. Adrian Banks, Ty McKee and Raviv Limonad combined for 36 points from the guard position while Menco and Ginat gave the Reds 30 points marking 66/77 of the total points. It’s clear that Hapoel has something to offer and they will continue to work to get to a level where they can be much more competitive as the season moves along. The season is long, that’s for sure, so teams have that chance to readjust and make the necessary changes which Hapoel is still doing.

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