Hapoel Jerusalem finished the game with 11 unanswered points to overcome Bnei Hasharon 85-77 on Thursday night at Nokia Arena and claim a spot in the State Cup finals.
Jerusalem will face cup-holder Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final. Maccabi blew out Hapoel Galil-Elyon Golan 88-63 in the second game of the doubleheader evening. At halftime, Maccabi had scored twice as many points as Galil-Golan (54-27).
After blowing an eight-point lead with five minutes to play, Bnei Hasharon went up 77-74 with a minute-and-a-half left on an Adam Harrington fast-break dunk, which started when Ousmane Cisse blocked Tamar Slay's shot. But that would be Ya'acov Geno's side's last basket.
Mario Austin tied the game with a three-point play on the ensuing possession and then Yaron Lahat fouled Roger Mason Jr., allowing the Hapoel marksman the chance to make two from the line. After a Terrence Rencher turnover, Austin drilled a three with 25 seconds left that put his team up by five and virtually sealed the win.
Mason led all scorers with 24 points, while Austin had 22. Horace Jenkins, who fouled out with 2:11 remaining, added 16.
Rencher scored 19, Cisse 18 and Harrington 14 in defeat.
"We played to half of our ability," Jerusalem coach Erez Edelstein said afterwards. "Bnei Hasharon played with a lot of confidence... Terrence Rencher is as good as the best point guards, Cisse and [Ugonna] Onyekwe closed the paint and it was a tough game.
"The difference for us was that when we lead by nine, instead of finishing the game, we let our opponents back in."
The game was close throughout the first half, which ended with Hapoel ahead 39-37.
Jerusalem was the stronger side in the third period and built a 55-47 advantage, but Bnei Hasharon never gave in and Rencher led his team back to tie the score at 59 at the end of the third period. The momentum remained Bnei Hasharon's way and when Slay was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul on Harrington, the resulting possession saw Bnei Hasharon go up 71-63 with seven minutes left.
However Jerusalem stepped up its defensive intensity and held Bnei Hasharon scoreless for four minutes to get back in the game and eventually take a 74-73 lead on a Jenkins layup with 3:22 to go.