Basketball: Mac TA wins nail-biting cup final

Gershon delighted after claiming dramatic 77-70 victory over Bnei Hasharon.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv survived a brave Bnei Hasharon effort to claim itsfirst State Cup in four years on Thursday, winning 77-70 in the finalat the Nokia Arena.
Maccabi has never gone more than three yearswithout winning the cup, but very nearly lost Thursday’s final, withBnei Hasharon squandering a couple of chances to take the lead in thefinal two minutes of the encounter.
Tel Aviv led throughout thegame, but Bnei Hasharon never allowed the perennial league champion topull too far in front and ended up coming tantalizingly close to afirst cup in club history, despite scoring just 22 of 68 from the field.
Maccabionly hit 29 of 63 shots and was outrebounded 48-38, but showed oncemore that when all else fails it can also fight it out with the best ofthem and eventually outhustled Bnei Hasharon for the title which haseluded it for the past three seasons.
“We are delighted to liftthe cup again,” Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said. “We were the betterteam for most of the game. We defended superbly and held Bnei Hasharonto 32 percent from the field, which is not an easy thing to do. I thinkthat if we would have played better on offense we would have clinchedthe win earlier.”
David Bluthenthal scored 14 points forMaccabi, with Alan Anderson, Andrew Wisniewski and Guy Pnini adding 12,11 and 10 points, respectively.
D’or Fischer dominated under the baskets, taking 12 rebounds and blocking four shots, as well as scoring eight points.
“Itfeels great to bring the cup back to Maccabi,” Anderson said. “We hadto work hard for the win and despite some turnovers managed to finishwith the win.”
Shawn James had 20 points and 12 rebounds forBnei Hasharon, with Ori Itzhaki and Sam Clancy scoring 17 and 10points, respectively.
“Maccabi controlled the game, but we cameback and I’m proud of that,” said Bnei Hasharon coach Dan Shamir, whoguided Hapoel Jerusalem to the cup in 2007 and 2008.
“Wefought throughout the game and showed our character. We missed a fewplays in the money-time, but the better team won the game.”
Pointswere hard to come by for both teams at the start of the game, but itwas Maccabi which broke out of the scoring slump first and Fischer’slong jumper gave the team an early 10-2 lead.
An Anderson basketextended the gap to 14-5 and, with Bnei Hasharon only managing to scoretwo of 15 field-goal attempts in the first period, Tel Aviv was infront 20-10 after 10 minutes.
Shamir’s players would catch fire at the beginning of the second quarter and doubled their point total within just two minutes.
Two threes were followed by baskets from Itzhaki and Isaac Rosenfelt and all of the sudden the score was tied (20-20).
Maccabialmost immediately pulled ahead once more, but Bnei Hasharon never losttouch and despite Pnini’s triple at the buzzer was down by just fivepoints at the break (38-33).
The Sharon side came within onepoint, but could not take the lead and the rarely used Derrick Sharpscored two threes, the second of which opened a 60-51 margin with justover two minutes to play in the quarter.
Maccabi took aseven-point gap (63-56) into the final 10 minutes, but theyellow-and-blue could not shake Bnei Hasharon and Shamir’s men weredown by a mere three points (65-62) after Clancy’s three-point move.
Ron Steele’s triple with 2:45 to play closed the gap to a single point (69-68) and set up a thrilling ending to the game.
WithTel Aviv leading 71-70 with less than two minutes remaining in thegame, Bnei Hasharon had its chances to go in front, but both Steele andJames squandered golden opportunities and Maccabi held on fornail-biting victory.