It's money time. After an extended season, Corona break and a tough fought playoff series, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, will face Hapoel Gilboa/Galil on Sunday evening (21:15, Live on Sport5 - channel 55) in Menora Mivtachim Arena as part of The Israel "Winner" League Final Four Semifinal. The winner will compete in the finals versus the winner between Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Rishon Le'Zion.
"We are in the best place we can be, and when you have to overcome the problems we've had, you have confidence, and you're ready to play", Said head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos in the press conference before the big contest. "In the Final Four, even when you play on your home court, there are no favorites. It's 25% for all teams, we have to concentrate and look to qualify for the final".
"We have to fight to the end, not give up and play without point guards", Answered Sfairopoulos about what the team learned in the series against Hapoel and continued about the keys towards Gilboa/Galil. "We scout each team, and we have an excellent scouting staff. We respect them, they lost only twice since returning from the break. They changed three foreigners, and they play better now".
"Personally, this was the toughest time in my life mentally, but I'm thankful for my teammates and the organization because we are all in this together", Said Jake Cohen about the mental conditions of the players. "In moments like this, your mental and psychical states are tested, and this was visible in the past few games, but I believe that we will be well prepared for the game on Sunday".
"Winning is all that matters, I'd much rather have 0 points and win the game than score 30 and lose. I'll take that trade on Sunday and any game going forward", Added Cohen about his performance in the last win. "Hopefully, the team will play better, I feel like we haven't played our best basketball. We had a great game against Hapoel in terms of our fight and determination, but we have a significant amount to improve on our basketball. If we can combine good basketball and the fight we've shown, we will be alright".
The Yellow & Blue met the northern squad twice this season, ending with the upper hand in both matchups. The first game was decided after double overtime, as Giannis Sfairopoulos's unit came on top 112:110. Wilbekin posted 35 points and 9 assists, Jake Cohen added 33 points and 14 rebounds.
The second meeting took place in Menora Mivtachim Arena, as Maccabi handled the Reds 99:76. Once again, Cohen was excellent finishing the night with 22 points, and 9 rebounds, Deni Avdija and Tyler Dorsey added 16 and 15 points respectively.
Hapoel Gilboa Galil holds the best record in the Israeli "Winner" League (9:2) since the break, allowing 79.5 points per game, forcing 16.3 turnovers and grabbing 2.6 more rebounds than their opponents. Yiftach Ziv improved his stats mightily following the break, from 10.3 points and 9.6 PIR in the first 21 league fixtures to 13.7 points and 17.2 PIR in the past 11 contests.