Hapoel Jerusalem forward Donta Smith dunks two of his 24 points over Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith (right) and Sylven Landesberg during last night's 93-63 win at the Jerusalem Arena..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
For the first time in seven years, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will meet in the State Cup final.
Maccabi, which is targeting its sixth consecutive cup, claimed a dramatic 90-87 overtime win over Maccabi Haifa, while Jerusalem eased to a 97-65 victory over Hapoel Eilat in the first semifinal of the night at the Jerusalem Arena.
Stormy and perhaps even snowy weather is expected in Jerusalem ahead of Thursday’s final. However, there is sure to be a heated atmosphere at the arena ahead of another installment of the classic rivalry.
Maccabi and Jerusalem haven’t met in the cup final since 2008 when Hapoel erased a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to record a remarkable victory and lift the trophy for a second straight year.
Jerusalem hasn’t won a title since, failing to even reach the league or cup finals over the past six years.
Tel Aviv looked much like the team that suffered a shock defeat to Alba Berlin in Euroleague action last week at the start of the game, failing to score in the first three minutes of the contest.
However, a 10-2 run got the yellow-and-blue back on track, although it was Haifa which had a one-point edge (15-14) at the interval.
Nevertheless, Maccabi slowly seized control of proceedings, establishing a double-digit lead before taking a 42-34 margin into the break.
But Maccabi was unable to press ahead in the third quarter and there was nothing to separate the teams entering the final 10 minutes (60-60).
A tight quarter would ensue, but Haifa was ideally placed when it took a five-point lead (82-77) into the final minute.
However, Rene Rougeau missed two crucial free throws with 15 seconds to play, allowing Brian Randle to send the game to overtime by tapping in the ball with seven second left.
Haifa could not recover and Tel Aviv advanced to another final.
Devin Smith and Brian Randle had 15 points each for Maccabi, with Will Graves and Ike Ofoegbu scoring 19 for Haifa.
Jerusalem got the opening semi of the night off to a perfect start, scoring the first 10 points of the game. Eilat could hardly get a shot off and when it did it failed to connect, going 0-of-5 from the field to begin the contest.
Jerusalem held an eight-point cushion (24-16) entering the second period, but Eilat never gave up the chase. However, after closing to within three points (31-28), the southerners allowed Jerusalem to pull ahead yet again before the break, with the locals taking a nine-point gap (43-34) into the second half.
Eilat scored the first two points of the third period to cut the deficit to a mere seven points, but Jerusalem would dominate after that.
A 15-0 run capped by Lior Eliyahu’s basket took the gap to an all but unassailable 22 points (58-36) and Jerusalem cruised until the final buzzer.
Yotam Halperin led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 22 points, with Joseph Jones adding 16 points and 10 rebounds. Elishay Kadir had 18 points for Eilat, which was hoping to reach a second straight final.