A remarkable fourth quarter by Maccabi Tel Aviv saw it progress to the BSL final for a 20th straight year on Monday night with a 78-72 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem in Game 3 of the playoff semifinals at Nokia Arena.

Jerusalem looked to have avoided a sweep in the best-of-five series when it took a 15-point gap into the fourth quarter. However, Hapoel completely lost its head in the final 10 minutes and was outscored 25-4 by Maccabi, which will be hoping to claim its third straight championship in the league final at Romema Arena in Haifa on June 13.

Tel Aviv awaits the winner of the semi series between Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Eilat. Eilat avoided elimination on Sunday with a 78-75 overtime victory to cut its deficit to 2-1 and force a Game 4 on Wednesday.

“This was one of our greatest comebacks,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt.

“Jerusalem played like a team that was fighting to extend its season and it deserves credit for its determination.

Hapoel played a great game for three periods, but we played one of the best quarters I can remember during my time at the club. I said long ago that this might not be the best Maccabi team, but this is a team that never gives up.”

Devin Smith had 24 points for Maccabi, playing 14 minutes with four fouls, while Ricky Hickman scored 17 before being ejected at the end of the third quarter.

Samardo Samuels led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Maccabi raced into a quick eightpoint gap (14-6), but the hosts couldn’t shake the Reds and Hapoel was down by just a single point (17-16) after 10 minutes.

The momentum remained on Jerusalem’s side at the start of the second period, with Courtney Fells scoring five straight points to open a sixpoint gap (27-21) Hapoel’s lead reached seven points (33-26), but Tel Aviv came all the way back to tie the score (40-40) following a Ricky Hickman three-pointer and the visitors were ahead by just two points (42-40) at the break.

The teams were still only separated by two points (52-50) midway through the third period, but Hapoel would soon seize control with a 10-0 run. Five consecutive points by veteran Meir Tapiro capped the surge and Jerusalem’s lead reached 15 points by the end of the quarter (68-53).

Maccabi also lost the services of Hickman with 1:27 to play in the third frame after he was ejected for shoving Lior Lifshits to the ground, but it mounted a stunning fight back in the final period to book its place in the final.

It took Jerusalem more than six minutes to score its first points of the quarter and three consecutive baskets from beyond the arc, the last two by David Logan, completed a 16-0 surge which gave the yellow-and-blue the lead (69-68).

Tapiro put Hapoel back in front seconds later with his team’s first points of the period, but Maccabi would not be denied and clinched its place in the final.

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