Maccabi Tel Aviv crushes Nes Ziona in series opener

May 28, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv took a 1-0 lead in its best of five Winner League quarterfinal series on Tuesday night at Yad Eliyahu with a convincing 109-83 win over Nes Ziona.

John Dibartolomeo – Photo credit:

Maccabi started slow, with Itay Segev stealing the ball from Lorenzo Brown inside the first minute and passing to George King for an open layup to give the visitors an early lead. The lead was cancelled shortly after when Jake Cohen shot 2/2 from the line, followed by a 3-pointer to Rafi Menco and baskets to Brown and Josh Nebo as Maccabi scored 11 points without reply to establish a 11-2 lead. The visitors’ captain, Jerome Meyinsse, stopped the run with a basket, while also making a nice block on a Roman Sorkin attempt under the basket and hitting a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to lead all scorers with 7 points at the end of the quarter. But Maccabi still held onto a commanding lead, including through captain John DiBartolomeo who made 2 shots from behind the arc to lead the home team’s scorers together with Nebo with 6 points each after 10 minutes, as Maccabi took a 25-17 lead into the second quarter.

Maccabi extended their lead through a basket to Antonius Cleveland from a Jasiel Rivero assist, a 3-pointer from Tamir Blatt and 2/3 from the penalty after being fouled on another 3-point attempt, and another layup to Cleveland inside less than two and a half minutes of play. This forced Nes Ziona coach Meir Tapiro to call a timeout as he quickly found his team down 34-17. Kyle Feit responded with a 3-pointer out of the timeout to score the visitors’ first points for the period. But Maccabi continued to push ahead and halfway through the period were up 47-24. Tomer Levinson scored 6 points in the back half of the quarter to make sure that the lead didn’t blow out any further and Yair Kravitz scored a jumper on the halftime buzzer. However, Maccabi still took a commanding 61-36 lead into the halftime break, with Nebo and Nes Ziona’s Isaiah Whitehead leading all scores with 12 points.

Josh Nebo – Photo credit:

Nes Ziona started the third quarter with the first 11 points through baskets to Rawle Alkins and 3-pointers to King and Whitehead to reduce Maccabi’s lead to 14 points. Maccabi coach Oded Katash then called a timeout to make sure that his players were aware that the second half had started. Brown responded immediately with a pull up jumper from midrange to register the home team’s first points for the period, which was immediately followed by another shot from long-range to Blatt and a layup to Sorkin to stretch the lead back out to 68-47, forcing Tapiro to himself call his first timeout of the quarter. However, Maccabi maintained and then extended their lead, courtesy of Brown scoring 12 points for the period, as the home team led 85-59 with 10 minutes to play.

Menco, Cohen and Blatt started off the final quarter with 3-pointers to push out the lead to 94-59 within 90 seconds. Cleveland head the buzzer with a 3-pointer to take Maccabi’s total to tripled figures with a little under 5 minutes to play at 100-70. Maccabi seemed to be on cruise control for the whole game, which is the only reason why the lead didn’t explode even further and Nes Ziona managed to reduce the lead to 26 points by the end of the game, with the regular season leaders taking a 1-0 lead.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo credit:

Brown (18 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals), DiBartolomeo (15 points with 5/5 from 3 and 2 assists) and Cohen (14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal) led the scoring for the victors, while Whitehead (15 points, 2 assists and 1 block) and Alkins (13 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists and 1 steal) led the scoring for the visitors.

“I think overall I’m satisfied form the result and the way that we played,” Katash said after the game. “In the first quarter we were focused. It’s the start of the playoffs and every game is important. I think the game reached a margin that could cause us to relax and be complacent. We need to stay focused. I think Nes Ziona is a better team than the result indicates. We need to look at the video of the game and see where we made mistakes. We need to look at what we did right.

“As a coach I want to be focused the whole game,” Katash said of his concerns regarding errors. “I am worried that overall I don’t want us to think that we’ll go into the next game and get the same result and it’ll be easy. Here we need to work. That’s our job as a staff to cause the players to stay focused and come with the same sense urgency in the second game.”

Oded Katash and Meir Tapiro – Photo credit:

“We came for our first playoff game and Maccabi came as they know how to to the first game,” Tapiro said after the game. “They did good work, us less so. Well look forward to the next game.

“Our players were excited,” Tapiro continued. We didn’t play well in the first quarter and our confidence went down. Today Maccabi also made lots of 3-point shots like they did in their last game against Kiryat Ata. This was our playoff game – it happens. It’s partly experience, partly that a couple of weeks ago we were going down league and then we made the playoffs with a run of wins. We’ll get ready for the next game.”

“We understand that it’s a series and not a one off,” Nebo said after the game. “Whether we win by 20 points or 2 points, it’s only one game. We can’t think that because we won by a big margin the series is over. We need to be prepared for Friday.

Josh Nebo – Photo credit:

“I don’t think we expected the game to be easy,” Nebo continued. “We know every team is fighting for a championship and we expect Friday’s game to be even harder.”

“I think everyone know that Mayer has a lot of potential at this level. We’re all excited for what he can do in the future and he helps our team a lot. We’re all rooting for him and we hope he can keep it up for us.”

“I felt they were the aggressor and they played like underdogs,” Alkins said of the poor game. “They played tougher and we gave them confidence. We had a little run at the beginning of the third quarter to get back in the game and then they called a timeout – the rest is history.

Rawle Alkins – Photo credit:

“We need to understand that we’re an underdog and it’s a series,” Alkins said of how they’ll get back into the series in game 2. “We’ll be with our fans. We need to go with that ‘next game up’ mentality.”

The teams now travel to Nes Ziona for game two of the series on Friday afternoon (16:15 IDT / 9:15 EDT).

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