“The pressure is now on them” Gilboa heads home with backs against the wall as Maccabi looks to clinch title

Those were Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s last words of the Israel Basketball Winner League’s Gala Award and Press Conference event held at Camilo in Tel Aviv. And you know what? He’s absolutely right.

Just as the Yellow & Blue did what they needed to in a short series which was to win the first game, Hapoel Gilboa Galil will go home to Gan Ner with a ton of pressure on them because their backs are against the wall as it’s win or go home for Avishay Gordon’s team.

Iftach Ziv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Down 1-0 in a best of three series means there’s no choice but to win two games in a row and that is a tall task for any team especially when you are facing the defending champions Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Is it impossible for Gilboa to comeback? Of course not. As we’ve seen so many times before that anything can happen in the spectrum of sports.

Sports is where the impossible is possible.

Who would have imagined just a few short months ago that game one of the finals would be in front of over 10,000 fans in a packed Yad Eliyahu? Probably not many, but that was the case.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos and Avishay Gordon – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Sfairopoulos began. “After a long period with the corona problems, we were able to experience a full arena again. Hopefully we will have this type of atmosphere until the end of the universe.”

With a packed gym, the fan energy is absolutely addictive and can make a huge impact on a home team as Maccabi captain John Dibartolomeo explained, “The atmosphere was amazing and the fans were locked in giving us energy. That gives us extra momentum and an extra boost, but to use that energy was key to us. We’ve missed the fans dearly and we are so happy to have them back.”

There will be a packed arena in Gan Ner without a doubt on Wednesday night as the Galilee supporters will be there in droves to root their team on and hopefully the lights won’t go out as they did last week keeping 2,000 fans in the dark.

Avishay Gordon – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It’s 1-0 to Maccabi, but we won’t give up and we will play with our heart,” Gordon said. “We will be with our fans and will play very hard.”

Gilboa co-captain Netanel Artzi concurred with his coach’s sentiments, “I hope we can lift the level of our play in Gan Ner and it’s going to be a great game, these things don’t happen everyday.”

Netanel Artzi – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi knows full well that Gilboa won’t be an easy out and that they will fight tooth and nail every single possession just as they did in Tel Aviv. Gordon’s team won’t go down without a fight and will look to feed off of the home crowd to make their arena as difficult as possible to play in.

“It’s only 1-0 and this is nothing, we are playing the second game and it will be totally different,” explained Sfairopoulos. “Gilboa is a very difficult team and on their home court they are even better. We have to be very concentrated to follow our plan.”

John Dibartolomeo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Dibartolomeo knows that Maccabi can’t underestimate the hosts and will need to be ready to roll if they want to head to 206 following the game instead of rolling back down to a decisive game three.

“Gilboa is a tough team who have given us challenges all season long. We expect a physical and tough game in order to pull it out.”

There has been talk that Gilboa may be tired as the season heads towards the finish line, but Gordon doesn’t want to hear anything about that, “In a final there is no such thing as fatigue especially at an arena like this. It’s all in ones head. Maccabi was very aggressive and we have to come in ready for that. Every time we had some momentum in the first game we made a mistake but we will learn from that and it will be a very intriguing game at Gan Ner.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

While Gordon’s squad will have the home court advantage at Gan Ner for game two, it will be Maccabi and its coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos with the history and experience of having some of the mainstay players on the same team for a number of years which will be a huge plus for them in what could be the title clincher.

“It’s true that when you have a core of players that have been with you for a few years it’s easier to know what to do on the court and how to do it. We played against a quality opponent and the pressure is now on them.”

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