By JEREMY LAST
History was made in Tel Aviv on Thursday night when Hapoel Gilboa/Galil became only the third team in 41 years to take the Israeli basketball league title from Maccabi Tel Aviv.Oded Katash’s team stunned the yellow-and-blue 90-77 with a superb display in the championship game at Nokia Arena.The victory came 17 years after Hapoel Galil-Elyon first won the league after defeating Tel Aviv in the 1993 semifinal playoff series. Ironically, current Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Pini Gershon was at the helm of that Galil team.Thursday’s was the sweetest of victories for Gilboa coach Oded Katash, who was a Maccabi legend as a player but saw the club turn its back on him just seven months after giving him the coveted head coaching job in 2007.Gilboa point guard Gal Mekel was also delighted with the result, having moved to Maccabi over the summer only to return to Gilboa after complaining Gershon was not giving him the minutes he deserved. Mekel came back to haunt Tel Aviv, scoring 15 points in Thursday’s showcase.Gilboa outscored Tel Aviv 21-9 in a surprising third quarter that turned the final on its head. Guard Jeremy Pargo reproduced his semifinal performance in that stanza to lead the side from the north of Israel to an amazing victory.Earlier Thursday, Hapoel Jerusalem booked its place in next season’s Eurocup with a convincing 95-82 over Barak Netanya in the third place playoff game.AdvertisementAfter a tight first quarter, Jerusalem ran away with the game in the second and third stanzas to clinch the win and avoid finishing fourth.Netanya’s Danilo Pinnock led all scorers with 29 points, but he was one of only three members of his team who scored in double figures.Yuval Naimi, meanwhile, had 24 points and was one of five Hapoel players with more than 10 points, including three of the five starters.Despite seeing his team end the season with a victory, Hapoel coach Guy Goodes confirmed after the game that he will not continue at the club next season.Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 90, Maccabi Tel Aviv 77Gilboa began the game with strong defense, with Elishay Kadir battling the ball away from D’or Fischer and earning an offensive foul.It was as if to say, “history means nothing here, we are going all out to win this title.”Indeed it was Kadir who put the first points on the board with a layup under the basket.Maccabi had been expected to come out of the blocks with intent, but it was the team from the North which took control in the opening minutes, despite the overwhelmingly pro-Tel Aviv crowd.However, inspired by an aggressive David Bluthenthal, Maccabi muscled its way into the game, moving into a 14-11 lead not long after being 8-4 behind.The home team ended the quarter ahead, but only just, at 21-20 following two Doron Perkins free throws.Tel Aviv opened up the second quarter the brightest, but the team in red initially stayed with its far more illustrious opponent.Experience began to show however, and by half time the yellow-and-blue had strengthened its advantage to eight points (50-42).Yet, that was all just the beginning of what turned out to be a stunning game.It took till halfway through the third quarter for Maccabi to score any more points, allowing Gilboa to close the gap to within two points (53-51) four minutes from the end of the stanza and then take the lead through a Pargo fadeaway three-pointer (54-53).The arena was buzzing, alive with frenzied supporters. And Pargo was on fire, scoring 12 points in a most remarkable third frame.Tel Aviv battled back in the closing minutes, Perkins scoring a twohanded slam dunk, but a Guni Izraeli buzzer-beating three-pointer putGilboa firmly in control heading into the last 10 minutes with a 63-59lead.Maccabi started the fourth quarter powerfully with a Chuck Eidsonthree-point shot. But Katash’s young side was determined to stay incontrol.With five minutes to go it had underlined its supremacy and was up by ten points 77-67 through a Brian Randle two-pointer.When Perkins missed another shot at the other end Gershon called a timeout, clearly irked by the weak offensive prowess of his forward line.Maccabi’s players finally began fighting for every ball when they cameback on court and it paid off to some extent with the perennialchampions going on a five-point run to close within four points (78-74)with 1:22 on the clock.But it was not enough, and as time ran out the Northerners kept theircool. Randle dunked the ball and the visiting supporters began dancingin the aisles.
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