“The Cup is a surprise competition”, “They’re always pressure packed games” – Maccabi & Holon Tip-off in State Cup Semis

Feb 10, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

The Israel State Cup semifinals will be front and center on Thursday evening as Maccabi Tel Aviv will face Hapoel Holon in the nightcap slated to start at 21:10 with both games being played at the Drive In Arena in Tel Aviv.

Following the Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion clash, the second game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Holon will see the league’s two Greek coaches on the sidelines as Ioannis Sfairopoulos will look to win his first Cup in the Holy Land while Stefanos Dedas is in search of his first ever title in the country. In addition to the bench bosses, the yellow-and-blue’s Yovel Zoosman and Holon’s Guy Pnini also spoke about the battle for the title and a trip to the finals.

“It’s true that since I’m at Maccabi we have yet to win the Cup despite winning the league title,” said Sfairopoulos. “The cup is a surprise competition and each team has a 25% chance to win. We have to follow our plan and we respect Holon which is a team that we are familiar with. We have to stick to our plan and play a totally different game than we did in the last two games against them. Maccabi hasn’t won the trophy in a few years and we always have the motivation to win as that’s the DNA of the club.”

Photo Credit: IBBA

“Personally facing Stefanos is something that I’m very happy and proud about that a colleague of mine from Greece is on the other sidelines but it’s not a battle between the two of us but rather it’s a battle for the clubs as they will always be here and we will not.”

Coach Dedas also looked ahead to the importance of the game which will be the first time that Holo will have five foreign players registered, the same as Maccabi in a move that was spurred on by the fans who helped raise funds to pay the league fee for the right to add an additional import player.

“We are a very ambitious club and we want to be in the Final Four of every competition that we are playing in. We have two steps to take and we are playing Maccabi who is the strongest team in Israel. We know it will be difficult but we have to have confidence and be humble. We have to use our strengths and cover our weaknesses. There is the plan and the adjustments. Having five foreigners can give us some better rotations, but mentally we don’t have to worry about the psychological side and not have to sit a player out anymore.”

“As for playing against Ioannis, it’s really a battle between the clubs. Ioannis was the first to believe in my talent as a coach but we are here to watch two clubs who are ambitious and hungry. I’m not even thinking about this as a Greek Derby.”

Maccabi swingman Yovel Zoosman is ready to go but is also iaware of the challenges that a team like Holon will present, “The games between Holon and Maccabi have been very tight with good offense with the keys being rebounds and defense. Every game is one in itself and what was, was. We are looking at this game to bring our energy and aggressiveness.”

Photo Credit: Hapoel Holon

Guy Pnini who has won Cups with both teams is very aware of what the atmosphere will be like despite the lack of fans in the stands due to the coronavirus, but he’s also cognisant of what those same supporters were able to do in support of the team to be able to add the fifth import player, “I’ve been in these types of games with both teams and they are always pressure packed games. We will have to be focused from the first minute and we have the belief and confidence as per our results this season.”

“It was amazing that during these difficult times everyone is trying to help the club and register five imports. We know how passionate the fans are who donated and contributed to this cause in order to help management. We all want to be one team on the court and having just four imports dressing always left someone out. Now as a club we are complete.”

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