It has happened before this season, but it still had to be seen to be believed.
Coming back from 18 down against Hapoel Jerusalem in the BSL as Maccabi Tel Aviv did a few weeks ago was one thing. However, with 16 minutes gone in the semifinal of the Euroleague on Friday Montepaschi Siena was already leading 36-18 and the dream of a sixth European title for Maccabi appeared to have faded away.
Enter Derrick Sharp, stage right.
The veteran 36-year-old captain, in his 11th year at the club, came on a few minutes before half time in his first game since playing against Hapoel Holon at the start of March, and turned the match on its head.
Sharp was nothing less than a powerhouse, scoring 17 points including three crucial three-pointers and inspiring his less experienced teammates,
especially Brazilian Alex Garcia who also scored 17.
As the game drew on the Italians began missing shots while Tel Aviv couldnÂ¹t miss and continued to grow in confidence, eventually winning 92-85 to book a place in SundayÂ¹s final against CSKA Moscow. SienaÂ¹s Terrel McIntyre scored 26 for the Italians while Ksistof Lavrovic got 17, but it was not enough, Siena will now play in the third place
play-off on Sunday against Tau Vitoria.
Maccabi has a far greater European pedigree than Siena, but the Italians just finished their domestic season with a superb 31-3 record, while Tel Aviv has had it difficult in the Israeli league, losing three of its last four games since qualifying for the Final Four at the start of April.
Siena got off to a storming start, leading 8-0 within the first three minutes. The ItaliansÂ¹ now-famous defense blocked MaccabiÂ¹s efforts until
Terence Morris finally put some points on the board for the Israelis.
But Siena couldnÂ¹t be held back, defending tightly at the back of the court and breaking forward with alarming accuracy.
With a minute and a half left in the first quarter SienaÂ¹s American forward Shaun Stonebrook blocked David Bluthenthal as he drove to the basket and
then scored at the other end to make it a ten-point game at 16-6.
As the half wore on Siena pushed ahead, building on its 20-8 first quarter lead, with its largest gap being 18 points 4:45 mins before halftime.
Although Maccabi managed to cut the lead back to ten through a pair of Lior Eliyahu dunks towards the end of the period, the yellows were still down by 12 points at half time(45-33).
Tel Aviv came out fighting after the break, but initially it was more of the same, with SienaÂ¹s Terrel McIntyre adding to his 16 first half points as he stole off an Eliyahu dunk attempt and scored triple to make the scores 50-35.
However it was not all over yet by any means. Maccabi, buoyed by two three-pointers from Sharp, cut the lead to eight with three minutes to go in
the third (57-49).
The Israelis continued to come back into the game, ending up with only a three-point deficit with the score at 64-61 at the end of the third quarter,
after a massive triple from Garcia. The scores were tied at 64 at the start of the fourth when Bluthenthal scored a triple to end a 28-19 quarter for Maccabi.
At last the thousands of Israeli fans, all dressed in yellow, found their voices to see Will Bynum score a super three and give Tel Aviv its first
lead of the game at 67-64 with 7.30 to go. Halperin came on and scored a triple of his own, Maccabi led 73-68 and the hall was buzzing with the sounds of Israeli fans literally singing their
As money time began, Bynum scored a basket and a foul shot to make it 81-78 to the yellows. An alleyoop dunk from Terence Morris made it 83-78.
From then on the Italians could not come back as Maccabi marched on to a dramatic victory and a place in SundayÂ¹s final.