Zizic Party – Maccabi Tel Aviv downs Hapoel Tel Aviv 83-66 in State Cup Derby as the Yellow & Blue center proves unstoppable

Maccabi Tel Aviv easily disposed of Hapoel Tel Aviv 83-66 to not only win the Big Derby but to also move on to the State Cup semifinals. The yellow-and-blue controlled the game from the get go as Ante Zizic scored at will in the paint while also dominating the boards early on to the tune of 16-1 after the first quarter to cruise to the victory.

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Zizic led the way with 26 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and an efficiency rating of 46, Angelo Caloiaro dropped 13 points and Omri Casspi scored 8 points for Maccabi. JP Tokoto was the Hapoel high scorer with 19 points and Yam Madar added 14 points and 9 assists in the loss.

Gabe York – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Ante Zizic scored inside and Elijah Bryant went from the outside to get Maccabi Tel Aviv rolling but Gabe York and Yam Madar answered quickly, however, a trio of buckets in the paint by Zizic gave the yellow-and-blue a 12-6 lead midway through the first quarter. Angelo Caloiaro nailed a triple but Jonathan Mor answered with one of his own but Dragan Bender and Oz Blazyer cut to the hoop to find the basket and bump up the lead to 25-13 after ten minutes.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Omri Casspi started the second quarter with a layup, Scottie Wilbekin fed Zizic for an alley-oop as Bar Timor tried to keep Hapoel close with a pair of 3-pointers but Maccabi still stayed ahead 36-26 with 3:52 remaining in the first half. Casspi found points in the paint as did John DiBartolomeo and Yovel Zoosman went from beyond the arc as Madar did the same for the Reds but Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad took a 47-32 advantage into halftime.

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Zizic began the third quarter with a dunk but Madar, York and Daniel Koperberg attempted to keep the game close, however, points by Caloiaro and Wilbekin kept Maccabi in the lead 54-41 midway through the frame. York drilled home a 3-pointer as did Reggie Upshaw while JP Tokoto also found points to keep Ioannis Kastritis’s squad hanging around 65-54 after thirty minutes of play.

Omri Casspi – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

DiBartolomeo got the fourth quarter started off with points for Maccabi as did Zizic once again with a pair of dunks and Caloiaro heaped on more misery for Hapoel Tel Aviv as the hosts increased the lead to 76-54 with five minutes left in regulation time. Tokoto finally got the Reds on the board in the period but Zoosman, Bender and Eidan Alber immediately responded as Maccabi ran off with the 83-66 win.

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

3-Pointers
It was all Ante

Ante Zizic scored early, Ante Zizic scored often, Ante Zizic did as he pleased against Hapoel Tel Aviv as the big man not only scored oodles and oodles of points he also grabbed rebounds aplenty for Maccabi Tel Aviv as he set the tone from the get go. His teammates found him in the paint off the bat to go a nifty 11/13 inside. The Croatian was so dominant he had more rebounds (8) the the entire Hapoel team (7) after the first half! The big question still remains can Zizic play this same way in the Euroleague as he has done the past week against Israeli league teams in three different competitions? That still remains to be seen, but the most important thing it seems is that Zizic has regained his confidence as he explained, “I’ve been really working hard and I have my confidence back.It’s not just about me but the team and they were finding me on drives and layups and I finished with the dunks. Coach Sfairopoulos also spoke about his center, “I liked how we found Ante inside and the whole team did so. I don’t remember anyone who has these types of numbers in three games. We want to keep Ante at this level. All of the players have ups and downs and we knew what we signed from the beginning. Ante had three years in the NBA without the same level of participation and he has to get used to this role as well as Dragan Bender. That is the same for every player that comes here from the NBA, they need to adjust.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi wants the Cup

Maccabi came very, very focused to win the Derby and move on in the Cup tournament as they will try to win their first trophy in this competition since 2017. There is no question that the Yellow & Blue want to regain the trophy that they have won 44 times. It’s also a title that Coach Sfairopoulos and most of the roster has never been able to hoist save for Omri Casspi, John Dibartolomeo and Yovel Zoosman. So they are a team on a mission. “I want to congratulate my players as they played with concentration and determination to play a Derby in a Cup game and we won easily because of that” explained Sfairopoulos. “We protected the paint really well and it’s very important that we changed and disorganized their game. Derbies are always Derbies and we play with all of our effort, we prepared very well for such a game and we deserved this big difference.” Angelo Caloiaro, who has been with the team since 2018 was asked if he had been thinking about having not been able to win the trophy, “100%. It sits on our back and I’ve never won one in my career. It’s a standard and Maccabi have won many trophies. We haven’t been happy to lose early in the competition.”

Tyrique Jones – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

There is hope for Hapoel

Hapoel Tel Aviv came out flat like a pancake and was never in the game. They showed some light in the third quarter but then it took over 6+ minutes in the fourth period to find the basket. Noting seemed to work for the Reds. From the brutal start, to not being able to make a dent in the Maccabi D, it was a rough night at the office. However, Coach Kastritis is looking ahead and not backwards, “At the end of the first quarter the rebounds were 16-1 and we were down by 12 points. We can’t start a game like that in a knockout contest. We aren’t here to find excuses but solutions. In the third quarter the guys made a good effort but we ran our of power and couldn’t complete the comeback. We should have been smarter and I’m not going to point a finger. We tried and we are making a big effort everyday. We are almost there.” One of those pieces that will be helping Hapoel get “there” is newcomer Tyrique Jones who joined the team last week but was unable to play in the Cup game after they club was unable to get his international release in time. However, JP Tokoto believes that Jones will be a key piece to the puzzle, “He brings the physicality to the game from the five position. He sets screens, rolls and does so many things inside, it’s something we have been missing and he looks great in practice. He brings everything we need as a team and he’s going to change the tide for us.”

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