Maccabi Tel Aviv dismantled Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 87-68 to advance to the WINNER Cup semifinals and a date with Hapoel Jerusalem in an early season Israeli Classico on Friday afternoon. Guy Goodes’s squad jumped out to an early lead but Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s charges came strobing back midway through the second quarter with a 15-0 run to end the first half in front 44-37 as they cruised to the 19-point win.
Ante Zizic did as he pleased inside the paint with 14 points and 7 rebounds, Iftach Ziv added 11 points and 6 assists while James Nunnally, Oz Blayzer and Jake Cohen all scored 9 points to take the victory. TJ Williams led the way for Rishon with 16 points as Kris Clyburn and Malik Dime each added 10 points in the defeat that saw the wine city squad turn the ball over 25 times.
“We performed good enough for what we wanted to show,” began Sfairopoulos. “After giving up 28 points in the first quarter we didn’t do a good job, but in the 15th minute we showed how we can play. We played well defensively and we went on a 15-0 run. This is how we continued in the third quarter and we shared the ball well in the open court and the set offense. We saw how we wanted to play and we have players that are still adjusting, but as we play more we will continue to improve and get into better shape. I’m happy that we played in front of our fans and I hope that it will be like that until the end of the season.”
Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo also reflected on the game, “I think we had some good moments and tough moments too. I like how we fought and the energy we had. We have to keep working and play with energy then things will come together.”
“We weren’t used to the physicality and aggressiveness that took us out of our regular way to play,” began Goodes. “At that point we started to move backwards, we played slower, turned over the ball and we paid the price for each of those. I am happy that these things happened now and not in the regular season so that we can work on them.”
Noam Dovrat talked about what the key was in his eyes to Rishon’s undoing, “Into the first five minutes of the second quarter we were playing well but then things started to come apart and we couldn’t stop their run. They were more aggressive and we weren’t prepared for that.”
Prior to the game a moment of applause in memory of coach Arik Alfasi who passed away earlier in the day at the age of 49 took place by all in attendance.
Maccabi Tel Aviv came out firing on all cylinders early from downtown as Iftach Ziv, Keenan Evans and James Nunnally all found nothing but net from beyond the arc, but Kris Clyburn, Netanel Artzi and Noam Dovrat answered for Rishon Le’Zion as they took a 28-25 lead after ten minutes of action.
TJ Williams and Malik Dime helped open up a wider margin for Guy Goodes’s team but huge dunks by Zizic and Roman Sorkin along with points from John Dibartolomeo thrust Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad into the lead with a a 15-0 run to end the half up 44-37.
Maccabi picked up where they left off as Nunnally scored a pair of quick buckets, Zizic found points inside and Ziv added points as well while Angelo Caloiaro, Jake Cohen and Keenan Evans all added baskets to break the game open and head into the final frame ahead 66-45.
Kameron Taylor joined the party in the fourth quarter as he scored his first points of the game, but Rishon still had some fight in them as Clyburn and youngster Tal Peled scored to try and stay relevant. However, a pair of quick buckets by Oz Blayzer put the game out of reach as the yellow-and-blue moved on to the semifinals where they will face Hapoel Jerusalem.