Langford fuels Mac TA to Cup three-peat

Yellow-and-blue crush Rishon Lezion 82-69 to capture club’s record 39th State Cup.

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Bennet Cantu 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Bennet Cantu 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One down, three to go.
Maccabi Tel Aviv picked up the first of four titles it hopes to collect this season on Thursday night, beating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 82-69 at Nokia Arena to lift the State Cup for the third straight year and the 39th time in club history.
Tel Aviv scored the first seven points of the night and remained in complete control throughout the final against Rishon, which never really had a chance against a vastly superior opponent.
Rishon coach Effi Birenboim was guiding his fifth different team in a cup final, but once more he couldn’t add to the single cup he won with Bnei Herzliya in 1995, while Tel Aviv’s David Blatt maintained his perfect local trophy record, taking the cup for the fourth time.
Blatt will be looking to make it four Israeli league championships in four years as yellow-and-blue head coach at the end of the season, but first he will be hoping to guide Maccabi to its first Adriatic League title and also take it back to the Euroleague Final Four.
Keith Langford led Tel Aviv with 23 points, with David Blu and Tal Burstein scoring 12 points each.
Joe Crawford had 20 points for Rishon, with Derwin Kitchen and Brandon Bowman scoring 18 and 15 points, respectively.
Tel Aviv had no intention of allowing Rishon to even get a foothold in the game, with Langford almost single-handedly outscoring Birenboim’s men in the first period.
Langford scored the yellow-and-blue’s first seven points to give Maccabi an early 7-0 lead, and although it took Rishon almost three minutes to get its first points on the board, the fans in orange were still full of hope after a Crawford dunk closed the deficit to three points (9-6) midway through the quarter.
However, it took Maccabi less than two minutes to put a damper on Rishon’s optimism, with Lior Eliyahu’s basket opening a 15-6 gap.
Langford’s three-pointer to end the quarter gave him 12 points to Rishon’s 13 and extended Tel Aviv’s margin to double figures for the first time (24-13).
The American guard continued to terrorize Rishon in the second period, taking his personal total to 16 points to keep his side comfortably in front (30-19).
Tel Aviv seemed to be in complete control, but Crawford ensured Rishon remained in touch, with his jumper bringing his team to within six points (30-24).
Rishon closed to within just five points in the final three minutes of the half, but a Burstein lay-up in the closing seconds capped a 10-3 Maccabi run, which opened a deserved double-digit lead (46-34) at the break.
Rishon would have been completely out of the game had Crawford not netted 16 in the first half, but Maccabi was determined not to allow the American guard to harm it any further and there was only going to be one outcome to the final after he was held to just two points in the third quarter.
The margin continued to mushroom as the period progressed and Tel Aviv’s celebrations began with still two minutes left in the third after two consecutive threes by Blu opened an unassailable 20-point (64-44) gap.