Basketball: Holon, Tel Aviv to meet in final

Hapoel downs Nahariya while Maccabi edges past Bnei Hasharon in semis at Nokia Arena.

Maccabi TA celebrate 22  (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi TA celebrate 22
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Holon will battle for the BSL championship on Thursday after a thrilling night of basketball at the Nokia Arena on Tuesday. Maccabi survived a massive scare against Bnei Hasharon, winning 57-55 despite trailing for most of the second half. Holon was behind by as many as 12 points during its game against Ironi Nahariya, but Miki Dorsman's team dominated the final three periods of the encounter and ended up clinching a comfortable 100-89 victory. Holon defeated Maccabi in two of the teams' three meetings in the regular season, but despite its erratic performance, Tel Aviv will be satisfied with nothing less than a 15th straight league title. Nikola Vujcic led Maccabi, scoring 13 points, with Yotam Halperin the team's only other player in double-figure with 12 points. "We play better when our backs are against the wall," David Bluthenthal said after the game. "First and foremost we have to play tough on Thursday. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't think we could win on Thursday." Jason Williams was unstoppable for Bnei Hasharon scoring 25 points. In the first semifinal of the day, Holon fell behind early, but won the second and third quarters 59-33 and survived a late Nahariya run to advance to the title game. "We got off to a slow start but we kept putting pressure on their defense and we came through in the end," Chester Simmons told The Jerusalem Post after the game. "It means a lot to me, it's a step forward to the championship. Last year I couldn't get past the semifinals and now I did. Hopefully we can play as good as we did today and win in the final." Nahariya exploded out of the blocks and quickly opened a substantial lead. John Gilchrist was terrorizing the Holon defense and his three-pointer gave the northerners a 10-2 lead. Three more points by the American guard midway through the first period opened a double-digit margin (18-8) and Nahariya went on to extend the gap to 12 points (22-10). Holon could get no closer in the first 10 minutes of the game and Nahariya took a 26-19 advantage into the second period. After a slow quarter by its standards, Holon found its rhythm in the second period and took the lead. Tucker's lay-up cut the side's deficit to two points (29-27) and four straight Brown points gave Hapoel a 38-36 lead, its first of the night. Miki Dorsman's men quickly built on their advantage and Washam's buzzer beater capped a quarter ending 6-0 run that gave Hapoel a 50-43 lead at the break. From that point on they would never surrender the lead. Tuesday's second semi was an entirely different affair. Maccabi got off to a quick start. Esteban Batista's lay-up to end the first period gave Maccabi a 22-9 advantage. Amazingly, however, Effi Biremboim's team managed to hold Maccabi to just two points in the final seven minutes of the first half. Bnei Hasharon continued to improve at the start of the third period and Erez Katz's five straight points gave the team its first lead of the night (31-29). Halperin scored three points to end the quarter and cut Maccabi's deficit to six points (50-44), setting up a thrilling final period. Four Alex Garcia points brought Tel Aviv within two points (52-50) and two Will Bynum free-throws meant the side was just one point down (53-52). Vujcic's three-point move then gave Maccabi a 55-53 lead and the game was slipping away from Birenboim's team. Williams still had the chance to tie the score when he was sent to the free-throw line after a poor Halperin miss. The American only managed to score one of two, but a Bynum free-throw miss at the other end would give Bnei Hasharon one last chance to claim the win. With the score at 57-55, Katz released a difficult three-pointer from the corner which went out off the rim and Maccabi went through to the final. Jeremy Last contributed to this report.