(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Holon completed the most impressive return from the dead since Lazarus on Thursday night, defeating Maccabi Haifa 69-68 in the State Cup at the Nokia Arena, thanks to a remarkable Brian Tolbert three-pointer at the buzzer.
In a thrilling game which went back and forth, Holon had the final say and, nine months after winning the BSL championship, added the State Cup to its trophy cabinet.
Holon almost disappeared in the off-season after owner and coach Miki Dorsman left the club, but somehow it managed to resurrect itself and capped its amazing story with an incredible cup triumph on Thursday.
Luis Flores scored 23 points for Holon, with Tolbert and Chris Watson adding 21 and 11, respectively.
B.J. McKie scored 12 points for Haifa, which is still searching for a first title in club history.
Brooks Sales scored the first points of the night to give Haifa an early lead, but Holon had the best of the early exchanges and a Flores jumper gave them a 10-6 lead.
Holon looked to dictate an up-tempo pace, however Haifa soon solidified its defense and McKie's three-pointer capped a 9-2 run, which gave the northerners a 15-12 advantage.
Tolbert found his range at the end of the first quarter and beat the buzzer in that frame as well to make sure Holon didn't trail after 10 minutes, tying the score at 18-18.
The veteran American guard then opened the second with a three, but Haifa scored the next nine points, forcing turnovers and scoring on the break.
Midway through the quarter, Maccabi hit four consecutive triples, with Ben-David's third three of the period opening an 11-point margin (39-28).
Holon managed to close to within five points in the closing stages of the first half, but a silly foul by Flores on Mckie as time expired gave the guard three free-throws, which he converted to open a 44-36 lead at the break.
Holon raced to a 15-3 run at the beginning of the second half, with Flores's two straight threes giving his side a 53-47 advantage.
Points were hard to come by in the second half of the third period and Holon took a four-point margin (55-51) into the final 10 minutes.
Hapoel moved eight points in front in the beginning of the fourth quarter (59-51), but Haifa never lost touch, and with nerves taking their toll moved in front.
Haifa was more suited for the trench war which developed and a crazy Gur Porat basket brought Maccabi within a single point (61-60).
Ronald Ross gave Haifa the lead once more with two free-throws, with 1.52 minutes to play, but Holon tied the score immediately and the game was up for grabs in the final minute.
One great play would decide the game and Tolbert sunk an amazing desperation three from the corner at the buzzer to give Holon the win.