GUY PNINI’S (10) Maccabi Tel Aviv 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
A remarkable fourth quarter by Maccabi Tel Aviv saw it progress to the BSL final
for a 20th straight year on Monday night with a 78-72 victory over Hapoel
Jerusalem in Game 3 of the playoff semifinals at Nokia Arena.
looked to have avoided a sweep in the best-of-five series when it took a
15-point gap into the fourth quarter. However, Hapoel completely lost its head
in the final 10 minutes and was outscored 25-4 by Maccabi, which will be hoping
to claim its third straight championship in the league final at Romema Arena in
Haifa on June 13.
Tel Aviv awaits the winner of the semi series between
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Eilat. Eilat avoided elimination on Sunday with a 78-75
overtime victory to cut its deficit to 2-1 and force a Game 4 on
“This was one of our greatest comebacks,” said Maccabi coach
“Jerusalem played like a team that was fighting to extend
its season and it deserves credit for its determination.
Hapoel played a
great game for three periods, but we played one of the best quarters I can
remember during my time at the club. I said long ago that this might not be the
best Maccabi team, but this is a team that never gives up.”
had 24 points for Maccabi, playing 14 minutes with four fouls, while Ricky
Hickman scored 17 before being ejected at the end of the third
Samardo Samuels led five Jerusalem players in double figures
with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Maccabi raced into a quick eightpoint gap
(14-6), but the hosts couldn’t shake the Reds and Hapoel was down by just a
single point (17-16) after 10 minutes.
The momentum remained on
Jerusalem’s side at the start of the second period, with Courtney Fells scoring
five straight points to open a sixpoint gap (27-21) Hapoel’s lead reached seven
points (33-26), but Tel Aviv came all the way back to tie the score (40-40)
following a Ricky Hickman three-pointer and the visitors were ahead by just two
points (42-40) at the break.
The teams were still only separated by two
points (52-50) midway through the third period, but Hapoel would soon seize
control with a 10-0 run. Five consecutive points by veteran Meir Tapiro capped
the surge and Jerusalem’s lead reached 15 points by the end of the quarter
Maccabi also lost the services of Hickman with 1:27 to play in
the third frame after he was ejected for shoving Lior Lifshits to the ground,
but it mounted a stunning fight back in the final period to book its place in
It took Jerusalem more than six minutes to score its first
points of the quarter and three consecutive baskets from beyond the arc, the
last two by David Logan, completed a 16-0 surge which gave the yellow-and-blue
the lead (69-68).
Tapiro put Hapoel back in front seconds later with his
team’s first points of the period, but Maccabi would not be denied and clinched
its place in the final.