1) Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion seem to have some kind of spell on Maccabi Tel Aviv. The last couple of times they’ve played, Rishon has taken home the victory. Now on one hand, Maccabi was without 3 foreign platers in Quincy Acy, Tyler Dorsey and Elijah Bryant while Rishon for the second game at least had Alex Hamilton who is quite the player in his own right and should be playing in the Euroleague next season (Maccabi Tel Aviv are you listening?). Can Rishon’s streak against Maccabi continue should they face each other in the league final? Well, that still remains to be seen but two other players in Scottie Wilbekin and Jake Cohen seem to have some issues with the wine city squad as well. One of the most important players for Rishon is D’Angelo Harrison who just loves playing Maccabi, “I’m just very alive when we play Maccabi Tel Aviv. I try to play hard and make sure my teammates get involved and are ready to go. Coach makes the game plan and we follow it.” What has been the key to their success and making sure they head into the playoffs in fine form? “Being consistent making shots from three, being aggressive and make the game scrappy because that’s how we are going to win the game. When it’s cute we probably won’t win, but when we play ugly we force other teams to turn over the ball. We have to stay consistent on the defensive end we have enough firepower to make some noise and hopefully get to the final.”
2) One of the stars for Rishon has been Zach Hankins who joined The Sports Rabbi recently on the Holy Land Hoops show as the big man has been a crucial piece to the club’s success. We’ve written about how Coach Guy Goodes wanted to change up the center position a bit due to not having much success against Jerusalem and Maccabi and went for a classic player who has made his mark in the paint. Harrison spoke about how Hankins has had a positive effect on the club, “Zach Hankins hasn’t been playing like a rookie, he’s been playing basketball for a few years and he has a good mentor in Darryl (Monroe). He’s a very good listener and he listens to us. The sky’s the limit for that kid as well.”
3) Maccabi Haifa were able to defeat pesky Hapoel Beer Sheva thanks to superb play from guard Andrew Andrews as the Greens were without Speedy Smith who was still in quarantine. Andrews scored 10 first half points and then just went off for 16 in the 3rd quarter alone. Not bad for the Washington Huskies product who began the season in Turkey after having played in Israel the year before with Hapoel Afula. Not only did he finish the game with 29 points but Drew Squared drew 12 fouls, impressive, quite impressive. Captain Willy Workman had this to say about the 6”2 floor general, “Andrew is a beast. We know how talented is and we feel comfortable when he has the ball in his hands. And the man just doesn’t miss free throws.”
4) Zuf Ben Moshe of Maccabi Ashdod has been an Israeli talent just waiting to burst out of the bottle and he finally did against his former team Hapoel Tel Aviv by scoring 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in his first double-double in the club’s first win after the coronavirus break which was also coach Amit Tamir’s first win as well. Ben Moshe is averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game and has really come into his own in the 3rd round of games bumping his averages up to over 15 points and 6.4 rebonds in close to 32 minutes per contest. It will be interesting to see where he will play next year as Ashdod will be featuring in the second division. There is a great interview in Hebrew on SportsRabbi.com that you can check out about Ben Moshe as he had this to say following the victory, “There’s no question that it was great to end the season this way and with a win as I am also happy with a my performance going into the offseason.” I’m sure there are a number of teams who will be looking for the swingman’s services next campaign that is just around the corner.
5) Jerusalem will enter the playoffs with a big challenge on their hands which coach Oded Katash explained to me which is to be mentally prepared. The Reds will need to be exactly that when they face Nes Ziona who have a number of quality players who can cause all kinds of problems from big man Cameron Oliver to Triple-Double man JP Tokoto to Rayvonte Rice and Golan Gutt. Nadav Zilberstein’s team will be a threat for the entire 40 minutes. Here’s Katash’s words, “It’s the mental side. The playoffs will be very close and tough, more than people think especially teams that have changed foreign players. The biggest test will be to find the passion. We saw that in the Hapoel Tel Aviv and Nahariya game how physical and intense a battle it was and we also saw that in other countries that some teams surprised the favorites. We have to come ready to go and the biggest challenge is to come in mentally strong.” If Jerusalem doesn’t come in ready to go they will be in trouble, big trouble. You can see where James Feldeine’s thoughts are as the postseason is about to begin and if I’m Katash I’d be a but concerned.
Hapoel Gilboa Galil went 7 for 7 in the 3rd round of games. Yes, a perfect 7-0 for coach Lior Lubin who has assembled quite the team in the Galilee. Whether it’s been the new foreign players in Joe Thomasson, Akil Mitchell or Tim Coleman, the holdover in Michael Young (watch him in action above) or Israelis Iftach Ziv, Gil Beni or Netanel Artzi, Lubin has done a masterful job with his club and in mind is the coach of the season without a doubt. By ending the season undefeated in round three, Gilboa Galil moved into 5th place and earned the right to face 4th place Hapoel Holon who is the weakest team of the top 4 teams while also having gone 0-6 in the final round of games. The only thing that will stop Gilboa Galil from heading into the Final Four will be themselves at this point and they can’t come into the quarterfinals aloof or cocky. Should they and Amit Sherf’s squad will punish them because there is still quality and veterans on his team who will be looking to prove all of us experts wrong.