President Reuven Rivlin stands behind Maccabi Tel Aviv players after presenting them with the State Cup..
(photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)
Despite all the talk of a new order being established in Israeli basketball, Maccabi Tel Aviv proved on Sunday night that it will take something special to topple it from its throne.
After a tight first half to the State Cup final at the Jerusalem Arena, Maccabi outplayed Hapoel Jerusalem after the break on the way to a 94-76 win and a sixth consecutive cup triumph.
Jerusalem truly believed this was its year. For the first time it was playing a cup final at its home arena and with a vulnerable looking Maccabi the opponent, Jerusalem was brimming with confidence entering Sunday.
However, after taking a four-point gap into the interval (46-42), the yellowand- blue seized control with a 16-2 run in the third quarter before ultimately cruising to the final buzzer.
The last meeting between the two local powerhouses in the cup final was back in 2008, when Hapoel erased an 18-point gap in the fourth quarter to claim a memorable win. However, there was no repeat of those heroics on Sunday, and Maccabi won the cup for the 42nd time in club history.
Devin Smith led Maccabi with 27 points and seven rebounds, with Brian Randle adding 14 points and nine boards and Jeremy Pargo contributing 13 points and five assists.
Bracey Wright had 22 points for Jerusalem, which was cheered by its fans from start to finish, but couldn’t repay them on the court.
“We knew it was a tough game in this arena,” said Smith. “We were aggressive in the second half and it’s good to come back with the trophy.”
Hapoel fed of the fantastic atmosphere created by its fans at the start of the night, with Tywain McKee’s basket giving Jerusalem an early nine-point gap (11-2).
However, that proved to be Jerusalem’s biggest lead of the night, with Maccabi scoring the next seven points and Pargo’s three-pointer giving the yellow- and-blue a 14-13 advantage.
Sylven Landesberg’s free throws to finish the first period ensured Maccabi still had the edge (22-21) entering the second quarter after both teams combined to score just 2-of-14 three-point attempts in the first 10 minutes.
The sides improved their proficiency from beyond the arc in the second frame, and while Tel Aviv maintained a slender margin for much of it, the game remained wide open at the break, with Maccabi ahead by four points (46-42).
The final seemed set to remain tight when Lior Eliyahu brought the locals within two points (48-46) early in the second half.
However, Maccabi tightened its defense and Jerusalem looked helpless.
Hapoel managed just two points over a five minute stretch, being outscored 16-2. A thunderous Alex Tyus dunk made it 62-48 to Tel Aviv and there was no way back for Jerusalem after Marquez Haynes hit a triple at the third quarter buzzer to open an 18-point gap (73-55).
Unlike the memorable final seven years ago, Hapoel never even came close to mounting a comeback and the yellow-and-blue celebrations began in earnest once Randle took the gap past 20 points for the first time (89-68) with two-and-a-half minutes to play.
“One thing you can’t do against a team like Jerusalem is to let your guard down and we never did that tonight,” was how Randle summed up the night.