Rishon’s adjustments, Zizic inside, Agada again, Gilboa back on track: The latest in Holy Land Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv was the superior team by far at Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion as they oucked up the 89-72 win and it never seemed as if Guy Goodes’s squad was going to threaten the Yellow & Blue. Right from the tip, it was all Ioannis Sfairopoulos. Granted, Rishon was without Jamil Wilson who had a minor knee issue as well as Egor Koulechov who had hasn’t yet arrived, plus Jeremy Pargo is new to the team while the two guards the club has played with for most of the season Isaiah Taylor and Trey Lewis are no longer with the team. So there is some roster turnover going on that Goodes hopes will be rectified on the sooner side and by the time the teams meet again on May 13th in the Israel State Cup Final. “We are dealing with these changes on a daily basis,” explained Goodes. “We talk about it and we have to make adjustments. Wilson will give us size that we haven’t had to date. We had a lot of leaks the past few months.” Noam Avivi, who was the high scorer for the hosts with 16 points put it bluntly when asked about it as well, “That’s life and we have to adjust quickly. For sure we will be better. They are 3-0 on us and we are looking to surprise them at the State Cup Final.”

As for Maccabi Ante Zizic ate Rishon alive inside with 20 points, 9 boards and and efficiency rating of 39! In the Israeli league, Zizic is above all others and can dominate the paint like no other player, in the Euroleague, it’s a bit of a different story. However, Zizic was able to make the switch from continental play to the domestic competition fairly easy after a blowout loss to Anadolu EFES, “It’s the hardest thing to do but you’ve got too. We know that we didn’t do a good job and that everyone of us had to step up, we saw that and we had good energy. On a personal level I had to step up and Omri and TJ also did a good job. The coaching staff prepared us well and the you play well defensively then it’s easier on offense. They had a shorter rotation and it was only a matter of time until they were gong to tire and we took advantage of that.” Coach Sfairopoulos also complimented his big an as well as Elijah Bryant who score 15 points with most of his damage coming in the first half to pull Maccabi ahead, “I think we had a good game from the start and we were focused on defense. Our offensive game was very good and we had 6 players who scored in double digits. The key player was Ante Zizic who was excellent inside. Elijah was very good on defense and did a god job on Pargo. On the offensive end he shot well from outside and also passed well. He really had a good game.”

Caleb Agada continues to amaze as he scores, and scores, and scores some more. This time he chalked up 32 points in Hapoel Beer Sheva’s 93-89 win over Nes Ziona. But it wasn’t juts the 32 points. It was his ability to come up huge in the last minute despite a bit of a hiccup down the stretch when the visitors were leading by a point. Veteran big man Benny Eisenhardt spoke about his teammate’s guile, “Caleb’s stepped up for us over and over this season, and we saw that again tonight. He made big plays on important possessions, and obviously we wouldn’t have been in a position to win without him. We started to let our lead slip in the fourth, and right before a timeout he had an empty trip to the line. A lot of players would have shut down or shied away from the moment, but it’s a testament to his mental fortitude that he was able to move past it in crunch time and make play after play for us.” Rami Hadar’s team is now 10-8 and are in 7th place as they continue to climb the standings. Last week they fell to Nes Ziona on the road so revenge was in the air and it was a critical victory for his crew Eisenhardt said, “We’re all able to read the table, and we’ve been around the same spots in the league as them so we’ve known for a little while that this was going to be a big game. Obviously losing to them at their place last week made it all the more crucial, so being able to come away with a W tonight was important.”

Hapoel Gilboa Galil picked up an important 96-79 win over Hapoel Haifa as they got back onto the right track as they moved their record to 11-6. After three losses in a row, Avishay Gordon’s squad needed to find a way to win and Haifa was a stiff opponent after a very big win over Hapoel Jerusalem but they came out flying to notch the victory. With 6 players in double figures the game was never, ever in doubt as Jehyve Floyd spoke about why the win was so critical for the team going forward, “It felt good to be playing like ourselves again. Right from the jump we focused on our defense and didn’t let up. Hopefully we can carry this momentum throughout the rest of the season.”

Saturday night Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Holon as the Greens will look to build off of their win this past week against fellow relegation battle side Hapoel Tel Aviv. Stefanos Dedas’s team will try to put the defeat to Pinar Karsiyaka behind them and get back in the win column.

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