It may just be the preseason Winner Cup, but both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will be desperate to claim their first title of the 2009/10 season when they face off in the final at the Malha Arena on Thursday night.
Jerusalem won a tight semifinal against Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday before Tel Aviv eased past Hapoel Galil/Gilboa in the second semi of the night to set up the classic final.
The bitter rivals have not battled each other in a title game since the 2008 State Cup final, when Hapoel came back from a 22 point deficit to stun Maccabi.
There is little connection between the current sides and the rosters which played for the Cup more than a year-and-a-half ago, with both clubs going through numerous personnel changes since.
However, the rivalry remains as strong as ever, and each team will be looking to draw first blood when they meet for the first time this season.
Maccabi thrashed Galil/Gilboa 87-65 in the semifinals, effectively clinching the embarrassingly easy win by the halftime break.
Maccabi coach Pini Gershon expressed a degree of dissatisfaction with parts of his teams performance, but said he is looking forward to picking up his first piece of silverware of the Israeli season.
"I'm not entirely happy that we didn't give our all in the third and fourth periods," he said. "But it may be for the best because we have an important game on Thursday and it is not so easy to play back-to-back games at this stage of the season."
Alan Anderson led Maccabi with 15 points and is looking forward to Thursday's final. "
I heard about the rivalry between Maccabi and Jerusalem," Anderson said. "I watch the classic games when at home and I know this is a big game and I'm waiting for it."
Dagan Yavzuri and Dion Dowell scored 12 points each for Galil.
Jerusalem had to work much harder to reach the final, outlasting Haifa 77-75 in a repeat of last season's BSL Final Four semifinal.
Kevin Pinkney led Hapoel with 26 points and six rebounds, with Tre Simmons and Dijon Thompson adding 15 and 11 points respectively.
"All in all this was a very good preparation game for both teams," Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes said.
Davon Jefferson scored 16 points for Haifa, with Ido Kozikaro and Jason Rich contributing 12 points.
"We really wanted to be in the final, but we lost control of the game at the end and that's a shame," Haifa coach Avi Ashkenazi said.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 87, Hapoel Galil/Gilboa 65
Tel Aviv was poor in the first period, but Galil was even worse, and a Doron Perkins three opened a 16-11 Maccabi advantage after 10 minutes.
The yellow-and-blue continued to cruise in the second quarter, with Perkins' lay-up capping a 16-0 run which gave Maccabi a 24-11 gap. Galil was in complete disarray and Tel Aviv all but clinched the win by the break, opening a 42-20 lead.
Hapoel Jerusalem 77,Maccabi Haifa 75
Haifa got off to a quick start, leading 8-2 after less than three minutes. However, Hapoel would never lose touch and moved in front in the end of the period, taking a one point margin (22-21) into the second quarter.
The second period was extremely tight throughout, but this time it was Haifa which was the more composed in the closing stages and Ashkenazi's men led 37-34 at the break.
Haifa remained ahead in the third quarter and had a relatively comfortable 60-53 lead with 10 minutes to play. Jerusalem cut the lead as the fourth period progressed and led 70-68 with three minutes to play. Haifa never gave up the chase, but it could not complete a comeback.