Maccabi Tel Aviv sweeps Nes Ziona, punches ticket to semifinals

Jun 2, 2024 | Holyland Hoops | 0 comments

Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Nes Ziona 105-64 on Sunday to close out their quarterfinal series 3-0.

Prior to the game, Maccabi held an emotional ceremony for the fans who have fallen and been murdered since October 7.

Photo credit: Basket.co.il


The captains opened the scoring for each team, with each of Jerome Meyinsse and John DiBartolomeo scoring a layup inside the first minute. Bonzie Colson, who returned to the lineup after the birth of his daughter last week kept him out of games one and two of the series but came in for Joe Thomasson, also got on the board early with a jump shot. While Jake Cohen also added points, Isaiah Whitehead, Rawle Alkins and Tomer Levinson added points from the foul line to make it a 9-7 game to Maccabi halfway through the first quarter, but with the hosts in foul trouble.

Maccabi started to get a breathing space with dunks to Josh Nebo and Roman Sorkin, building a double-digit lead only 7 minutes into the game. While Whitehead clawed back some points towards the end of the period to lead all scorers with 8 points, Maccabi went into the first break up 19-13.

Roman Sorkin and Rafi Menco – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


Rafi Menco and Antonius Cleveland started off the quarter with their first points of the game to take the lead back out to double-digits, with the latter showing off with a classy dunk. When Nebo scored his first points of the quarter, Maccabi was up 31-17 and Nes Ziona three and a half minutes into the period and coach Meir Tapiro called a timeout to try to stop Maccabi’s momentum.

Meyinsse scored a jumper out of the timeout, but Maccabi just continued to do what they pleased, with Menco and Colson responding for Maccabi with the teams first points made from behind the arc for the game. Kyle Feit added the visitors’ first 3-pointer for the game shortly after, but Maccabi continued to push ahead with 3-pointers to Brown, Colson and DiBartolomeo as the Yellow & Blue extended their lead to a dominant 56-28 at halftime.

Nes Ziona started off the second half with the first 5 points through a long-range shot to Tzuf Ben Moshe and a layup to Feit from a nice Whitehead dime. While Maccabi responded through layups to Nebo, Menco and cohen, a 3-pointer from Feit a couple of minutes later rescued the lead to 25 points at 62-37. Whitehead went down with what looked like an upper-leg injury shortly after, while down the other end of the court and Menco scored back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead out to 70-37 halfway through the period.

Jasiel Rivero – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


Maccabi shows no signs of slowing down, with Omer Mayer making his first appearance with a few minutes left in the third quarter and immediately affecting the scoreboard with a layup, to the delight of the fans. His direct opponent, Ben Moshe, hit back with a 3-pointer followed by George King shortly after, but it didn’t prevent the deficit from increasing, with late points to Colson and Sorkin giving Maccabi an 83-49 lead going into the last quarter.

Meyinsse continued to lead from the front for the visitors with the opening points of the period, but Cleveland hit back with a 3-pointer and a pass to Menco to extend the lead. While Nes Ziona continued to fight, Maccabi was the much stronger team, with Cleveland providing another highlight close to the end of the game with a windmill dunk on a fast break. Three-pointers from DiBartolomeo and Sorkin put Maccabi into triple figures and on the way to a 41-point victory.

Menco (17 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist), Sorkin (17 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks) and DiBartolomeo (15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal) led the scoring for Maccabi, while Meyinsse (20 points, 9 rebounds and 1 assist) was the only player in double-figures for the visitors.

“The conclusion is what I said to the players – the more the coaches can help the players, the more the players can help the coaches,” Maccabi assistant coach Josep Maria Berrocal, standing in for head coach Oded Katash tonight, said after the game. “When they enjoy to play it makes it easier. Many things were good this series and how we played.

“When the players want to play, it’s easy. Any tactics will work when they want to play. I thought they showed good steps to how they were ready, they wanted to win faster. So it was easy to manage.”

Lorenzo Brown – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


“Unfortunately we didn’t play well, mainly with scoring,” Tapiro said after the game. “When you don’t score you move backwards and that’s what happened the last two games. Overall, on the other hand, I’m proud of our players with five wins to end the regular season. It’s not easy to win playing every two days. At the end of the day, we’re proud of making the playoffs. Next year we’ll come harder and hope it’ll be a good season.

“One of the things is to learn and look forward,” Tapiro said of what needs to be done in the offseason. “We learned a lot for next season. It was a good period for the group to make the playoffs. From this point, we’re happy. Last game for us at home against Maccabi, the stadium was full. It’s important for the fans. We want to be part of them and I’m happy that we managed to do that, if we look at the glass half full.”

“It was an easier series that we expected I’d say,” DiBartolomeo said. “The intensity wasn’t as high as we’re used to in playoff basketball. That’s not a shot at Nes Ziona – playing every two days for a team with a shorter roster is very difficult. We expect a different picture for the next series.

John Dibartolomeo – Photo credit: Basket.co.il


“The important thing is that after a strenuous season we could rotate guys, rest guys. Guys like Omer Mayer could get minutes, Rafi Menco got momentum, which we need going forward. Our depth is our advantage and we’ll need people stepping up because the next series will be a challenging task.”

“First of all, I’m disappointed,” Nes Ziona’s Yair Kravitz said after the game. “We were in good form with five consecutive wins into the playoffs. The results don’t reflect it, but we gave it our all.

“In this season we had lots of ups and downs. We wanted to make the playoffs and we finished the regular season with five wins to get there. I’m proud of the group for this.”

“I think that it’s the small things,” Kravitz said as to why Nes Ziona was not competitive in the series. “We could have been more aggressive, we could’ve played harder. We struggled to run and we couldn’t get stops – this was the main thing.”

Maccabi will now play the winner of the quarterfinal series between Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon, with the first game of the best of three game semifinal series to be played at Yad Eliyahu.

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