Hapoel Jeru salem guard Jerome Dyson looks to continue his excellent form when the team visits Valencia tonight in Game 1 of the Eurocup semifinals..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
It was just less than a month ago that Maccabi Haifa entered the final day of the BSL regular season needing a win to book its place in the playoffs. On Thursday, Haifa will face Hapoel Jerusalem for the championship at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv after registering the latest chapter in its remarkable rise by beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 85-74 in the Final Four semifinals on Monday.
After defeating Hapoel Tel Aviv to clinch the eighth and final ticket to the post-season, Haifa became the first No.
8 seed to knockout a top seed when it beat Hapoel Holon 3-1 in the best-of-five playoff quarterfinals.
Haifa was still the underdog against a resurgent Tel Aviv on Monday, but it led from start to finish to secure its return to the final for the first time since 2014.
Tel Aviv’s defeat means that for the first time in its history it will go three straight years without winning the championship.
Making matters all the worse for the yellow- and-blue, it didn’t even reach the final in the past three seasons.
Jerusalem avenged last season’s defeat to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the final in the first semi of the evening, pulling ahead with a 19-4 run to end the third quarter and never looking back on the way to a 93-76 triumph.
After becoming the third team in BSL history to come back from a 0-2 deficit in the playoffs, Jerusalem seems to be finding its rhythm at a perfect timing, dominating an in-form Rishon side to advance to the final for a third straight year for the first time in club history.
After a tight first half ended in a threepoint Jerusalem lead (42-39), there was nothing to separate the teams (49-49) following Shawn Dawson’s triple with 5:30 minutes to play in the frame.
The game would be decided by the end of the quarter though, with Jerusalem scoring 19 of the next 23 points. Rishon netted only one more field goal by the end of the period, with Jerome Dyson leading Hapoel’s surge with 10 of the team’s 19 points to establish a 15-point margin (68- 53) Rishon never threatened to erase.
Dyson finished the night with 23 points, with Richard Howell and Tarence Kinsey scoring 18 points each.
Long scored 16 points for Rishon, which impressed by overcoming No. 2 seed Hapoel Eilat in the quarterfinals but saw its title defense come to an end on Monday night.
In the second semifinal, Haifa stormed to a 14-point lead (22-8), but Tel Aviv replied with a 10-0 run (22-18). Haifa allowed Tel Aviv no closer in the first half, with Willy Workman’s three establishing a 12-point cushion (34-22) and the Greens taking a nine-point gap (39-30) into the break.
Andrew Goudelock’s three-point play brought Maccabi within three points (46- 43), but after being held scoreless until that stage, John DiBartolomeo scored five quick points and Haifa’s lead was back to double digits (53-43). Haifa was in complete control with 10 minutes to play (61- 47) and there would be no way back for Tel Aviv after DiBartolomeo’s four-point play made it an 18-point game (67-49), ending the yellow-and-blue’s disastrous campaign with a dejecting defeat.
Kevinn Pinkney led Haifa with 20 points and nine rebounds, while DiBartolomeo finished with 19 points. Goudelock scored 24 for Tel Aviv.