Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Devin Smith passes the ball behind both his and Amar’e Stoudemire’s back the State Cup final at the Jerusalem Arena on February 16, 2017.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Maccabi Tel Aviv may not want to remember much from this season, but it will not end it empty handed, claiming the State Cup for an eighth consecutive year on Thursday with an 82-68 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem at the Jerusalem Arena.
Maccabi’s campaign has been packed with numerous humbling lows and it entered Thursday’s final as an underdog. Jerusalem had won 12 of its previous 14 games over all competitions and was brimming with confidence with the final being played at its home arena.
Jerusalem led for much of the first half, but was held without points for over 10 minutes in the second half, scoring just 21 points after the break.
Clutch baskets by Devin Smith led Maccabi to a double-digit lead from which Hapoel never threatened to come back, leaving Hapoel without a cup triumph since 2008.
Maccabi, on the other hand, combined three victories in a row over all competitions for the first time since last November and has finally got something to smile about in a nightmare season.
Gal Mekel and Andrew Goudelock had 15 points each for Maccabi, with Smith finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Amar’e Stoudemire led Jerusalem with 15 points, but will have to wait at least until the BSL Final Four to win his first title in Israel.
After hitting just 3-of-21 threepoint attempts in the semifinal win over Hapoel Holon, Jerusalem immediately found its range on Thursday, equaling its trey total from three days earlier midway through the first quarter.
Bar Timor’s triple opened a seven-point lead (15-8), but Maccabi soon pegged Jerusalem back, a pattern which continued throughout the first half.
Jerusalem took a four-point lead (24-20) into the second quarter, but Maccabi scored seven points in the first 70 seconds of the period, with Victor Rudd’s three giving the yellow-and-blue its first lead of the night (27-26).
Hapoel quickly regained the lead, establishing its biggest gap of the first half (45-37) following a Lior Eliyahu dunk with 3:30 minutes to play in the frame.
Stoudemire took his tally to 12 points with the final basket of the first half, but Hapoel was ahead by only five points (47-42) at the break.
Jerusalem remained in front for most of the low-scoring third quarter, but its offensive struggles eventually cost it, with Gal Mekel’s jumper giving Maccabi a 57-56 lead after Hapoel went more than six minutes without scoring a field goal.
Devin Smith’s three at the buzzer gave Maccabi its biggest lead of the game until that stage (62-58) and he opened the fourth period with four straight points to keep the momentum on Tel Aviv’s side.
Mekel’s three-point play capped a 19-3 run and opened the first double-digit margin of the night (69-59), with Hapoel looking helpless.
Timor’s basket three minutes into the frame finally ended Jerusalem’s field-goal drought after 10 minutes, but a Colton Iverson basket at the other end reestablished a 10-point margin.
Jerusalem seemed to lack belief after that and Rudd’s basket with just under two minutes to play opened an 11-point gap (79-68) from which Hapoel was never going to come back.