Maccabi Tel Aviv books a semifinal series against Hapoel Holon; Hapoel Jerusalem takes 2-1 lead over Bnei Herzliya

May 24, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv booked its ticket to the semifinals on Wednesday, with an 82-77 victory at home over Hapoel Beer Sheva/Dimona to sweep the quarterfinal series 3-0. Lorenzo Brown (14 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals), John DiBartolomeo (13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assist and 1 steal) and Bonzie Colson (12 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals) led the scoring for the home team, while David Efianayi (20 points, 8 assist and 1 steal), Joaquin Szuchman (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal) and Ben Moore (14 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) were the top performers for Beer Sheva.

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit:

Prior the tipoff, Maccabi’s big Roman Sorkin (11 points and 7 rebounds) was announced as a member of the All-League Team. On a more somber note, everyone in the stadium paid respect to Arie Baranovich, the former member of Maccabi’s management who was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2015, who passed away overnight. “This is a sad morning,” Maccabi Chairman, Shimon Mizrahi, said earlier. “He [Baranovich] was devoted to the club and contributed a lot to its prosperity.”

Darrun Hilliard and Rafi Menco – Photo Credit:

Once the game started, Darrun Hilliard (9 points, 4 rebounds and 1 steal) put Maccabi on the scoreboard first with a 3-pointer, with Egor Koulechov (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal) responding immediately with a 2-pointer. However, Maccabi looked the stronger team throughout the quarter, giving coach Oded Katash the opportunity to give 10 of his players court time – everyone other than other than Tomer Agmon and Jarell Martin, who did not play in the end due to a sore foot.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit:

Alex Poythress (11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal) was the standout for Maccabi in the opening quarter, with 6 points – including two big dunks, one of them a put-back from an off-target Maccabi 3-pointer – and 3 rebounds. Maccabi led by as many as 8 points during the quarter, however 8 points from Efianayi and a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Ron Zipper (his only points for the game) helped keep Beer Sheva in the contest, with Maccabi leading 26-22 after 10 minutes.

Beer Sheva started the second quarter positively, with Katash forced to call a time out with Maccabi’s lead reduced to a slim 31-30 after three minutes. It didn’t help, however, with baskets to Moore and Efianayi giving Beer Sheva a 34-31 lead with 5:40 remaining in the half, resulting in Katash calling another timeout. While Beer Sheva lost their lead towards the end of the quarter, a buzzer-beating 2-pointer from Szuchman ensured that Maccabi only took a slim 44-42 lead into the main break.

Egor Koulechov – Photo Credit:

Maccabi started off the quarter with 3-pointers from Colson and Brown to extend the lead and fans may have been excused for thinking that they were going to run away with the game. However, they could not get away from Beer Sheva, with 3-pointers to Szuchman and Koulechov and a 2-pointer to Greg Whittington (6 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals) giving Beer Sheva a 56-50 lead three and a half minutes into the second half. While there were positives that Maccabi could take from the quarter –including Iftach Ziv (3 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists) running down and blocking Koulechov on a fast break to prevent Beer Sheva extending their lead even further – the Yellow & Blue made too many mistakes, including miscommunication between Rafi Menco (2 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal) and Ziv on an in-ball after a basket to Khalil Ahmad (11 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals) to give him four consecutive points and allowing Beer Sheva to take a commanding 64-56 lead into the final quarter.

While many may have expected the home team to come out and finish the game strongly, the visitors came out looking hungrier for the ball and maintained an 8-point lead for more than two minutes into the final frame, with the two teams trading buckets. When Sorkin and DiBartolomeo double-teamed Efianayi to force an errant pass and a turnover with Beer Sheva up 68-62, followed by an unsportsmanlike foul on Colson, Maccabi seemed to regain the momentum and reduced the lead to 66-68. However, an Efianayi steal and dunk on a fast break stretched the Beer Sheva lead back out again to 70-66, followed by Maccabi bringing up its fifth team foul for the period with five minutes to play, gave the visitors hope that they may be able to pull off a victory.

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit:

However, there was not to be an upset, with a Sorkin 3-pointer leveling the scores at 71-71 with four and a half minutes to play. While Moore scored a basket to put Beer Sheva up 76-74 with two and a half minutes to go, Maccabi steadied with Poythress, Colson, DiBartolomeo and Brown all scoring points in the final minute of the game to give Maccabi a 5-point victory.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“I want to start by giving a lot of credit to Beer Sheva, you know how much I like Lior [Lubin, Beer Sheva coach],” Katash said after the game. “They do great work and they prepared tactically to make it difficult for us. They really got the most out of their team and they played exceptionally well.

“For us, offensively, against the way that they played, it was our best game, but we simply missed too many shots [with Maccabi shooting 51.4% from 2 and 22.9% from 3].”

Lior Lubin – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“I think we did a lot right and appropriate for our opponent, the best team in the country with homecourt advantage, size advantage and depth advantage,” Lubin said after the season-ending loss. “I’m very proud of this season. We succeeded in the Balkan League. We will continue to develop – it’s not something that happens overnight.”

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit:

“It was a tough series,” Colson said. “It was tough to get in a rhythm offensively throughout the series. Same thing on defense. They put a lot of pressure on our defense. But we stuck to our game plan as best as we can. We played hard, we matched their energy, and it’s been great, it’s been fun.”

Maccabi will face Holon in the best of three game semifinal series, which begins in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night (21:00 IDT / 14:00 EDT).

In Wednesday’s other game, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Bnei Herzliya 74-69 in the capital on the back of a 19-5 run in the last quarter, to take a 2-1 lead in their quarterfinal series. Levi Randolph (18 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists) and Zach Hankins (16 points, 15 rebounds and 1 assist) were in double-figures for victors, while Maurice Kemp (21 points, 13 rebounds and 2 steals) and Chris Babb (11 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists) led the scoreboard for the visitors.

Zach Hankins and Or Cornelius – Photo Credit:

Prior to the game, Hankins was announced as a member of the All-League Team and was also awarded for leading the league in rebounds for the season, for his 10.1 rebounds, while Or Cornelius (4 rebounds and 2 assists for the evening) was presented with the award for the Defensive Player of the Year.

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit:

“Our guys are just headstrong, tough guys, stepping up when we need to, playing through a lot of adversity and just getting the job done,” Hankins said after the win. “Herzliya is just a talented team. They’re really really good, they’re really tough. It’s playoffs – we’re going to be able to bump each other a little extra and they’re a strong team.”

The series returns to Herzliya on Sunday night (20:45 IDT / 13:45 EDT), where Hapoel Jerusalem will work towards winning the series and book a semifinal matchup against Hapoel Tel Aviv, while Bnei Herzliya will be looking to send the series to a deciding fifth game.

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