Maccabi Tel Aviv in pole position after win over Nes Ziona to snatch 2-0 series lead

May 31, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi went up 2-0 in their best of five games quarterfinal series against Nes Ziona on Friday afternoon with a convincing 99-66 win at Lev Hamoshava.

Veterans bigs started the scoring for each team inside the first minute, with Jake Cohen for Maccabi and Jerome Meyinsse for Nes Ziona scoring early, while others had difficult finding the bottom of the net. Maccabi started to build a lead, with Joe Thomasson, Lorenzo Brown and Rafi Menco finding the bottom of the net, with Meyinsse the only one managing to score for the hosts in the first six and a half minutes of play as Maccabi led 12-4 when Nes Ziona coach Meir Taprio called his first timeout. Kyle Feit contributed for Nes Ziona shortly after with a 3-pointer and Tsuf Ben Moshe added a jumper, but it was Mayinsse who was the main contributor early with 8 points to lead all scorers early, as Maccabi took a 20-13 lead into the first break, with Tamir Blatt, Roman Sorkin, John DiBartolomeo and Jasiel Rivero also affecting the scoreboard.

Isaiah Whitehead – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


Isaiah Whitehead started the second quarter with a 3-pointer and Ben Moshe added more points to give the home fans something to cheer about before Maccabi extended their lead through points to Blatt and Antonio’s Cleveland forced Tapiro to call a timeout a little over two minutes into the period with the visitors out to a 29-18 lead. While Sorkin continued with his recent good form from long-range, Whitehead responded in kind down the other end for the margin to continue to hover around 10 points, with Maccabi leading 39-28 halfway through the period. Nes Ziona was not rolling over, but when Brown lobbed an alley-oop to Josh Nebo with two minutes remaining in the half, Maccabi was out to a 48-33 lead. Maccabi ended the half with a rare sight – four Israelis on the floor (Sorkin, Cohen, Menco and DiBartolomeo) and Brown the only foreigner, with Menco scoring a long-range 2-pointer to give Maccabi a 52-36 lead at halftime.

While Maccabi slowly extended the lead after the main break, Whitehead provided a rare highlight for the home team with a one-handed dunk to make it a 63-44 lead halfway through the quarter. Rawle Alkins hit a 3-pointer to keep the lead below 20 points a couple of minutes later to make it 66-49 in favor of the visitors. But some quick long-range shots from Blatt stretched the lead out to 74-49 with a little under two minutes remaining in the period. Menco added another 3 before the end of the quarter and Maccabi took a 79-52 lead into the last 10 minutes of the game.

With the result beyond doubt, Maccabi coach Oded Katash put his young start Omer Mayer into the action and he started of the quarter with a 3-pointer (and a total of 8 points for the period) and the lead was out to 86-55 in the visitors’ favor after three and a half minutes played in the quarter. Thomasson also added multiple shots from beyond the arc. While Yonatan Abuluf added a basket at the end of the game for the hosts, the visitors finished strongly to win by 33 points.

Photo credit: Basket.co.il


Sorkin (17 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocks), Thomasson (12 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block) and Blatt (12 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists) led the scoring for the Yellow & Blue, while Alkins (15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals), Meyinsse (14 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks) and Whitehead (13 points, 2 rebounds and 5 assists) led the scoring for the Orange.

“I thought it was a good game for us,” Katash said after the game. “We were focused from the first quarter. We made the adjustments defensively from the first game that we wanted. We also controlled the rebounds 53-36. On the other hand, they had a bad game. I think that they can come back on Sunday so we need to be ready.

“Part of their shooting poorly was from our pressure, but they had a bad shooting day. They were aggressive. I think when we were aggressive we distracted them. It’s what we did and we spread the minutes as well, so I’m happy.”

“First, thank you to the fans who game,” Tapiro said in what may well be his team’s last home game for the season. “It was the first game this season that the stadium was full. the fans anre important for us, they are a big part of the team. Unfortunately we didn’t play well offensively today.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


It starts with us believing that we can come and win,” Tapiro said of what they need to do in game three of the series. “First, the players need to believe. Secondly, we need to shoot well. In the games before the playoffs we shot well and won. Now against Maccabi we didn’t play well, we didn’t shoot the percentages we did in those games. If we can do that – to win is difficult to say after such big losses – but we want to be competitive.”

“We need to keep believing in ourselves and keep doing what the coaches tell us to do,” Thomason – who didn’t miss a shot today – said of what Maccabi needs to do to sweep the series. “Our coaches had a great game plan. Nes Ziona a talented team, great scorers. We just have to be ourselves, have the energy and trust the game plan, trust my teammates and trust each other play hard.

“We need to not worry both the games which follow – we have to focus on the task in front of us – be present and do what we can control. We need to live in the moment and then I believe great things will happen.
“Also, credit to the big guys, they did a hell of a job on the offensive rebounds – we also had a total of 17 more rebounds,” Thomasson said, praising Nebo (who had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds) as well as Menco (7 points and 8 rebounds) and Sorkin (7 rebounds). Credit to them, credit to the coaches – we just have to continue on Sunday.”

“We brought more energy this game,” Meyinsse said post-game. “We played close in the first half but gave up too many offensive rebounds. We can’t give them second chances. With their second chances they made shots.”

Photo credit: Basket.co.il


Meyinsse also talked about the group of players that Nes Ziona has this season.

“It’s a different group, a lot more cohesive. Unfortunately we haven’t had the same team the whole season and when you play Maccabi you have to be on the same page. There are moments when there’s disconnect and it hurts us. But the energy and desire to win, we’re all trying our best.”

Nes Ziona will look to keep their season alive at Yad Eliyahu on Sunday evening (19:00 EDT / 12:00 IDT), while Maccabi will be looking to close out the series.

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