Mac Tel Aviv and Rishon to tip off for title

Both semifinals go down to wire as Wilbekin wills yellow-and-blue to victory, Ariel silences Jerusalem.

Rishon Lezion punched its ticket to the final with a dramatic 100-97 win over Hapoel Jerusalem. With just a second left on the clock in regulation time, Ariel scored an off balance three-pointer from the corner to send Guy Goodes’s squad to the championship game.
Rishon came out strong to start the game and led by over 20 points in the first half, with Zach Hankins playing a pivotal role in the paint, but a 41-point third quarter thanks to a red-hot Jeremy Pargo gave the Reds a shocking lead after 30 minutes.
As both squads traded baskets throughout the final frame Ariel had the last word with his heroics as time expired to send the wine city crew to the title match.
D’Angelo Harrison led Rishon with 21 points and eight rebounds, Zach Hankins scored 20 points, Oz Blayzer added 16 points and Darryl Monroe chipped in with 13 points in the win.
Pargo was Jerusalem’s top scorer with 32 points, James Feldeine added 18 points while John Holland had 15 points and Suleiman Braimoh notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
“My heart is racing a million miles an hour right now,” said Ariel after the contest. “It’s unbelievable. We deserved to win and this is for my teammates and fans. This was a huge win for us and there is no one happier than me that the ball went in. It’s on to Tuesday.”
Goodes also reflected on Ariel’s game-winning bucket.
“Adam’s basket was incredible and I even think that the ball went by the backboard. God opened up the gates for us and the ball went in.”
Losing coach Oded Katash was remorseful after the game.
“I don’t have an explanation,” said the Jerusalem coach. “We had great energy in the locker room before the game and we knew what we were heading into after beating them five times this season. We started off horribly and we were just shocked from the get-go. This happened to us last season against the same team and when Jerusalem loses a chance to take home a title it’s disappointing and that’s how we feel.”
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Gilboa/Galil 81-78 thanks to a Wilbekin three with 2.7 seconds left to send the yellow-and-blue to Tuesday night’s final.
Sfairpoulos’s squad controlled the game from the start, but Lior Lubin’s Galilee team used a frantic fourth quarter to even up the score late at 78-78 before Wilbekin’s heroics saved Maccabi.
Tyler Dorsey scored 20 points to lead Maccabi, Wilbekin added 17 points while Deni Avdija chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds in the win.
Iftach Ziv scored 23 points, Joe Thomasson notched 15 points and Akil Mitchell scored 14 points in the defeat.
“It’s great to score a dramatic game-winning three-pointer,” Wilbekin stated. “It’s incredible to score the winning shot, but we had a crazy three minutes of play before that. What was crazy? It was three regular minutes of Israeli basketball. We deserved to win and it was important for us to advance to the final.”
Sfairopoulos also reflected on the win.
“We deserved to win as we controlled the game for the most part,” said the Green coach. “Our opponents had the chance to win when they tied the game in the last period. But most important is that we won and now we can focus on the final which is what we played for all season.”
Lubin was full of second-guessing after the gut-wrenching defeat.
“It was clear that Wilbekin was going to get the last shot,” said Lubin. “He’s used to making clutch plays and we should have tread to have another player beat us. Perhaps we missed an opportunity.”