The Israel State Basketball Cup semifinals get underway later today (Monday) with a twin I’ll set to take place beginning with Nahariya & Nes Ziona at 18:30. That game will be followed by Hapoel Jerusalem & Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion at 21:00 in a game that will surely be a barnburner of a contest.
Hapoel Jerusalem vs Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion
Suleiman Braimoh looked ahead to the knockout game that awaits his squad, “We’re taking it one game at a time and we know what the goal is. We will come as focused as possible and gave our best effort.” Idan Zalmanson reiterated his teammates thoughts, “We’re all coming in focused which gives us a sense of confidence. We’re playing a very good team but we prepared well and are coming into the game 100% ready to go.”
The general public is looking at Hapoel Jerusalem as the favorite, but Braimoh doesn’t see it that way, “We’re not looking at ourselves as favorites and we know that it’s going to be a really tough game. Rishon is playing really good basketball. It will be good for us to do our best to play our best game and being that we haven’t done that over the last couple of games that is where our focus is. Going into the game as favorites is not the right way to go into the game. We have to try to get better and going in there to do what we do best is the correct attitude.”
Zalmanson agreed 100% on the issue of favorites, “Favorites go out the window when you’re playing a knockout game.”
Rishon features a couple of big men that will try to close down the paint as Darryl Monroe and James Kelly will certainly be a force to be reckoned with, “They are both great players and they bring a lot to the game and they are integral players for them. The onus is on us and we have our work cut out for us and I think we will come in to get the job done.”
“Both James Kelly and Darryl Monroe are excellent players but defending them isn’t just one man alone it’s team work,” said Zalmanson.
With the release of Hapoel Jerusalem’s State Cup documentary from last season, the players also weighed in with their thoughts of movie, “I like movies like that as it gives you the feeling of wanting to be there also,” explained Zalmanson. “You also want to win the Cup and experience that feeling and that’s why you play basketball at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good period or one that is not so good, it all goes down to Monday’s semifinal and God willing Thursday’s final. You’ve got to put everything behind you, play 40 minutes, come and battle for the Cup that’s just waiting there for you.”
Braimoh has this to say about the film, “I felt like a sense of pride to be a part of and affiliated with an organization that handles business the way Jerusalem does. That was my first reaction. On a selfish note, I want to have my own movie. I want to God willing this next year the talks are about how Jerusalem won the Cup this year. Personally it was a little extra motivation to put in extra work to come in as prepared as possible to help my team and this organization to win. To make the fans proud and Homsky happy and to bring a lot of joy to the people of Jerusalem.”
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion’s Adam Ariel looked forward to the contest, “It’s tough to play Jerusalem and the last time we played them in the State Cup it was at their arena in Jerusalem. They have a lot of quality but we will do the maximum that the result will be better this time around.”
“Our defense will be the key as Jerusalem is a very offensive team with a lot of players who can attack the basket. We will have to be aggressive and focused for the full 40 minutes.”
Nahariya vs Nes Ziona
Itay Segev, who has won the State Cup with Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to help Nahariya reach the summit of the Israeli basketball world for the first time, “It’s very exciting. We’re all focused and we’re ready to enjoy this opportunity as it’s not something that happens every year, although I’ve experienced playing at this stage a few times in a row.”
Nes Ziona will also be trying to capture its first State Cup title and Golan Gutt shared some of his thoughts ahead of the game, “We’re growing year to year at Nes Ziona and our goal is to at least make it to the final. I really want to win this title and I’ll do the best that I can. We will come and fight and try to come away with the victory.”