(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv survived a mighty scare to claim the State Cup for a fourth
straight year and for the 40th time in its history on Thursday night, beating
Maccabi Haifa 76-68 at Nokia Arena.
Tel Aviv was in a comfortable
position at halftime, taking a double-digit gap (42-31) into the
However, the yellow-and-blue scored just 10 points in the third
period and Haifa almost erased the deficit completely before taking a 61-57 lead
with 6:40 to play in the game thanks to a 13-2 run.
yellow-and-blue would have the final laugh, responding with a 14-2 surge over
six minutes to open an unassailable eight-point cushion (71-63) with 47 seconds
Ricky Hickman led Tel Aviv with 15 points, with Devin Smith
adding 13 points and Yogev Ohayon scoring 12.
Gel Mekel was outstanding
for Haifa, ending the night with 28 points, while Donta Smith had 15 points and
Pat Calathes contributed 14 points for the Greens, which shot just 36.9 percent
from two-point range (17-of-46) after hitting an amazing 84 percent of their
two-point shots (26-of-31) in the semifinal win over Hapoel
Just like in Tuesday’s semifinal win over Maccabi Ashdod, Tel
Aviv began the night with a hot hand from beyond the arc, with Hickman’s
three-pointer, the yellow-and-blue’s third straight, opening an early seven-point
Haifa’s defense had no answer for Tel Aviv in the first
quarter, but Mekel single-handedly kept his team in the game, scoring 14 of his
team’s 18 points to keep the Greens at arm’s length (25-18) after 10
Nevertheless, a Moran Rot jumper took Tel Aviv’s margin to
double digits (29-18) at the start of the second period and a Guy Pnini three
extended the gap to a record 14 points (42-28).
David Blatt’s men still
held a comfortable double-figure cushion at the break (42-31), but Haifa finally
showed up on the defensive end in the third frame and was right back in the game
after holding Tel Aviv to just 10 points in 10 minutes.
A Cory Carr
basket cut the deficit to three points (46-43), only for a David Logan triple,
Tel Aviv’s first points in five minutes, to take the lead back to six
Another Logan three gave Tel Aviv a 52-48 advantage at the end of
the quarter and another triple by the American guard to start the final frame
increased the margin to seven points (55-48).
However, Haifa would reply
with a 13-2 run to take its first lead since scoring the first two points of the
Mekel was unsurprisingly at the center of the surge, with his
free-throws giving Haifa a 61-57 edge with 6:40 to play.
But Tel Aviv
would fight back immediately, going on a 9-0 run, with Smith’s three opening a
Haifa ultimately lost any hope of winning after managing to
add just two points to its tally in over six minutes, with Pnini’s free throws
capping a 14-2 run to give Tel Aviv an eight-point lead (71-63) from which there
would be no return for the Greens.