replace mcbi Maccabi Tel Aviv wins a nail-biter

Beats Hapoel Jerusalem 80-78 to win 37th title in last 38 years

Maccabi Tel Aviv clinched its 14th straight league championship in enthralling fashion Thursday night at Nokia Arena. Jamie Arnold's basket off an offensive rebound with two seconds remaining gave Maccabi its first lead of the game and secured an 80-78 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem. Hapoel led throughout the game and seemed to be on its way to an historic BSL title. But a late Tel Aviv run secured its 37th championship in the last 38 years. Will Bynum led Maccabi with 18 points and five assists, with Tal Burstein adding 15 points and seven rebounds. Jerusalem was led by Mario Austin, who scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, with Meir Tapiro adding 14 points in an heroic display. Austin scored the first points of the game and set the tone for the rest of the first half. A dunk by the American center extended Hapoel's lead to seven points (9-2), but a three-pointer by Simas Jasaitis closed the gap to two points (12-10) midway through the first period. Tapiro was leading by example during the first quarter and his floater increased Jerusalem's lead to six points (17-11). A Will Bynum basket from downtown immediately afterwards brought Tel Aviv within one possession of Hapoel once more. Dror Hajaj's jumper with 25 seconds remaining in the period gave Jerusalem its biggest lead of the first half (24-15) and the reds led 24-17 after 10 minutes. Bynum would reduce his side's deficit to five points at the start of the second period, but a Terrence Morris three-pointer moments later kept Hapoel comfortably ahead (27-19). Four straight points by Sharon Sason left Maccabi just two points behind (27-25) and the momentum seemed to be shifting. A three-pointer by Horace Jenkins midway through the period gave Hapoel some desperately needed points and Jerusalem maintained its lead until the interval. Timmy Bowers's buzzer-beater gave Hapoel a 41-36 halftime lead that would continued growing at the start of the second half. Austin's basket from beyond the arc and four straight points by Bowers extended the margin to 13 points (51-38) to the delight of the Jerusalem faithful. Just when it seemed as through Hapoel might be on its way to opening an unassailable lead, Maccabi went on a 12-2 run that closed the gap to three points (53-50). Five points off the bench by Goran Jeretin were pivotal for Tel Aviv's comeback. A Hajaj triple with the shot clock running out stopped the Maccabi run. Three more points by Jenkins gave Jerusalem a 63-54 lead. Tal Burstein's jumper at the start of the fourth period brought Maccabi back to within five points of Hapoel (63-58), but Tel Aviv struggled to complete a comeback. Tapiro scored two crucial points, giving his side a 68-60 lead. A Bynum lay-in put his team just two points behind Jerusalem midway through the quarter (70-68), setting up a thrilling final five minutes to the game. Clutch free throw shooting by Hajaj gave his side a five-point lead (77-72), but a Burstein three and Bynum basket tied the score (77-77). Austin's successful free throw gave Hapoel in a one-point lead, but Arnold's late heroics secured another championship title for Maccabi. Earlier in the day, Hapoel Galil Elyon Golan defeated Bnei Hasharon 90-80 and clinched third position. Galil was led by Chester Simmons, who scored 29 points, as did Bnei Hasharon's Jason Williams.