Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion will tipoff for the Israel Basketball League title on Tuesday night at 21:00 at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv. Ahead of the game, the league held a press conference with the two head coaches, Ioannis Sfairopoulos and Guy Goodes along with the captains Jake Cohen and Oz Blayzer.
The acting CEO, Shlomi Peri opened the proceedings with the following statement, “This is a very important moment for me and Israeli basketball as a whole. Returning to play was really in doubt in April, but I have to really thank Guy Harel and Shmuel Frankel and they derive a lot of credit for the resumption of the league. We were able to return and finish the season as sportsmanlike as possible. Unlike the other two leagues that returned to play who did tournaments we played out the season. We have received many positives responses from around the world. I know how difficult it was for the players and the coaches and players to stay quarantined and it was a mental test for everyone. We just wanted the league to work and we were able to pull this off.”
Ioannis Sfairopoulos spoke about the challenges that everyone faced over the past few months, “It wasn’t an easy period and after a quarantine period during March, April and May. The players also had a tough time and were only thinking about tomorrow.”
Maccabi hasn’t beaten Rishon since the break and fell twice. Does that play a factor?
“It’s a good question for journalists and it can change anytime. When you play a final it’s a completely different game as this is for a title. We know each other and the most important thing is to focus.”
What’s more important, coming with energy or quality?
“Both are important for a final game, energy and quality. We need to play better and we have to have a solid game all aspects are important.”
Ready to go:
“I’m not concerned as all the players will be ready and the final is different everyone will be determined to play this game.”
“I don’t win, we win. We will try to win the title together. For sure playing 12 months in Israel, with the safety the country has provided which is crucial and life is more important. Life will go on. Basketball is a game and anything can happen. What is most important is for everyone to be safe.”
Rishon Coach Guy Goodes:
“I have to agree with Ioannis and we were able to do this as best as possible. We helped the players out as much as we could and everyone stayed healthy which is most important. Tomorrow we will play in the final for the second straight season and we’re happy about that.”
Fight on the floor:
“We’re really 2-2, it’s good on the paper but you have to do the job on the floor. Maccabi may have more experience but we will fight in the floor as we did against Jerusalem.”
Winning the title:
“To win a championship is most important and it doesn’t matter against who. We made it to this point and defeated a great team like Hapoel Jerusalem. We will fight for the title.”
Rishon Captain Oz Blayzer:
“We were finished last year, dead tired when we lost to Maccabi. This year is different as we have a deeper squad and we have to come ready to play and focused with a chance to win the title.”
Jake Cohen, Maccabi captain:
“Right now Rishon and Maccabi are on an equal playing field and all that matter is who is first.”
Focus on the goal:
“Trying to win the championship is my sole focus and all that other stuff is secondary. My goal is to win one more championship for the club.”