Jake Cohen & Iftach Ziv’s play down stretch at Galil Elyon gives Maccabi Tel Aviv optimism ahead of Zenit

While Maccabi Tel Aviv struggled mightily to record the 88-84 overtime win at Hapoel Galil Elyon, there were a couple of breakthroughs that the club will hopefully be able to take advantage of as both Jake Cohen and Iftach Ziv were the catalysts down the stretch to take the hard earned victory.

Not only did they lay it all out on the line in money time, the duo combined on Cohen’s corner triple to put away the game for good as time wound down in the extra session.

The Israel National Team forward not only drilled home the perfect 3-pointer, he played 35 minutes scored 13 points, grabbed 11 boards and was the heart and soul of the squad on this night. When Cohen spoke to the media following the win over Hapoel Beer Sheva last Saturday night it wasn’t difficult to see and hear his frustration about not playing a more crucial role including in Euroleague play. But the performance in the Galilee made it clear that not only does he want to be that anchor but also can be that anchor for the team.

As for Iftach Ziv, his game began atrociously with no rhyme or reason as he struggled to do anything positive to help the team. But as he remained on the Kfar Blum court late in the contest, he took the bull by the horns and Iftach looked like the Iftach of old. The guard reverted back to the player that led his team to the Israel League finals with Hapoel Gilboa Galil and gave Maccabi fits taking the champs to a decisive 3rd game before ultimately falling to defeat.

Just look at what Ziv did in the overtime period. With 1:13 left and Galil Elyon up 79-77, Ziv drove to the paint and sent a brilliant pass back out to beyond the arc where Scottie Wilbekin was waiting as the star guard drilled in a wide open 3-pointer as the defense collapsed on Ziv.

Ziv then gave an encore when he took the ball up the court with 50 seconds remaining and Maccabi in a 81-80 hole and drove to the basket, putting in a beautiful contested layup and one as he had so many times in the past to put his team ahead 83-81.

Finally, to wrap up his overtime performance with a nice bow, Ziv grabbed the ball once again with Maccabi in front 83-82 and 30 seconds left in the game. Ziv took it into the lane, kicked it out to the left corner where Cohen was waiting, as his 3-ball sealed the deal to give the Yellow & Blue the win.

Ziv ended the game with 7 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 drawn fouls in what was his best performance of the season and looked the part of point guard alongside Wilbekin which also must have been music to Maccabi’s ears.

Jake Cohen and Iftach Ziv – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

“Iftach and Jake were excellent in the 4th quarter”, big man Ante Zizic said. “In the overtime they did an amazing job. Jake made big shot and Iftach made great plays and that is why we won tonight.”

It’s true that is why Maccabi won, but Zizic took the MVP honors with a dominant 24 points and 13 rebound game which kept the Yellow & Blue alive to see Cohen and Ziv help the team in crunch time. When Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad was down by 16 points and shooting one brick after the next to the tune of 2/15 from deep in the first half, it was Zizic who kept Maccabi hanging around and able to mount that comeback.
“The most important thing that we did when we were down 16 was staying together and getting stops on defense and go offensive possession by offensive possession,” Zizic noted.

Sfairopoulos also spoke about the key contributions that were made at the end of the game to notch the win, “They hit two tough shots and they took the lead but we didn’t panic. We had free throws and in the overtime we showed our big heart and fighting spirit. We fought until the end and made a very important win.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Barak Peleg, Galil Elyon’s bench boss was able to take something out of the game but ultimately knows his team came up just short at the end as they couldn’t make the critical stops when all of the cards were on the table.

“I have to take the fight and the heart and soul of the players who came here to battle against Maccabi. We don’t give in to any team. Maccabi has a lot of quality. I am disappointed that there were a few defensive plays where we didn’t do what we needed to.”

While the win will give Maccabi a bit of breathing room ahead of another must win Euroleague game at Zenit St. Petersburg, the Yellow & Blue still needs to make some changes and can’t rely on the roster that has lost 6 continental clashes in a row. Derrick Williams is still nowhere to be found as is Jalen Reynolds and even Angelo Caloiaro while James Nunnally hit three critical free throws to send the game to overtime against Galil Elyon is still struggling with 13 points but a -7 and only one rebound and 2 helpers.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

There are rumors that Maccabi is in the market for a number of players including 6”6 guard Marcus Georges-Hunt and there is no question that the club can’t win with the current roster, but what can be taken away from the Galilee is the second coming of Jake Cohen and Iftach Ziv. If both of these players can be counted on when Sfairopoulos calls upon them in Euroleague and Israeli League play, Maccabi will be in a much better place going forward.

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