Local hoops: The title game everyone expected

BSL Final Four: Maccabi TA to face Hap Jerusalem in rematch of 2006 decider.

final four 298.88 (photo credit: BSL/Courtesy)
final four 298.88
(photo credit: BSL/Courtesy)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will face Hapoel Jerusalem in the Final Four championship game Thursday night in a repeat of last year's final. Maccabi defeated Galil 93-87 at Nokia Arena on Tuesday, while Hapoel defeated Bnei Hasharon 96-83 in the first semifinal. Jerusalem will be looking to avenge the 96-66 thumping Tel Aviv handed it in last year's title-decider and will be confident of doing so after the form displayed by both clubs on Tuesday. Hapoel coasted to victory against Bnei Hasharon while Maccabi toiled unexpectedly against less-regarded Galil, which outplayed the perennial champion for large parts of the game. Meir Tapiro led Jerusalem with 22 points and six rebounds, with Mario Austin adding 21 points and 11 rebounds. Substantial contributions by Terrence Morris (15 points) and Timmy Bowers (14 points, seven assists) made sure that even the unstoppable Lee Nailon (31 points) was not enough for Bnei Hasharon to give Hapoel a run for its money. "There's nothing to celebrate yet. Our mission isn't complete," Tapiro said. "I believe we can do it on Thursday. We will give our all and hopefully play well on both ends of the court." Maccabi Tel Aviv was led by Will Bynum, who scored 26 points, with Kenny Adeleke scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for the Galil. Galil was more composed at the start of its game and led throughout the first period. Tel Aviv was helpless against Adeleke under the baskets and the center's 13 first-quarter points gave Hapoel a 25-18 lead after 10 minutes. An Omri Caspi three-pointer a minute and a half into the second quarter gave Galil a stunning 33-20 advantage and Tel Aviv looked to be in serious trouble. Midway through the second period, Maccabi finally began playing to its potential, and Will Bynum's three brought his team to within five points (38-33). Tel Aviv was behind by two points at halftime thanks to Yotam Halperin's buzzer-beating three. Jamie Arnold tied the score with a dunk at the very beginning of the third quarter and it wasn't long before Tel Aviv took the lead. Bynum's triple two minutes into the period gave Maccabi a 55-54 advantage and Maccabi began to dominate. Galil struggled on the offensive side and Noel Felix's tip-in on an offensive rebound gave Maccabi a 69-62 lead. Clutch scoring by Arnold and Bynum in the last two minutes would prove to be the difference in the end, with Simas Jasaitis securing the victory, scoring from an offensive rebound with 30 seconds remaining. Hapoel Jerusalem 96,Bnei Hasharon 83 Jerusalem's and Bnei Hasharon's efforts to open a substantial lead were fruitless as the lead exchanged hands numerous times in the first five minutes. A Morris three-pointer three-and-a-half minutes before the end of the period gave Jerusalem a 14-12 lead, but soon after a Cookie Belcher dunk at the other end put Bnei Hasharon up by two (16-14). Erez Katz gave the Sharon club a 22-19 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the quarter, but Austin's buzzer-beating triple tied the score at 22 after 10 minutes. After scoring only nine of its 19 attempted field goals in the first quarter, Jerusalem found its shooting touch in the second period, hitting 12-of-15 from the field. Bnei Hasharon was unable to match its opponents and Hapoel raced into the lead with a 23-5 run. A Morris basket three-and-a-half minutes before the break capped Jerusalem's run for its biggest lead of the game (47-31). Bnei Hasharon cut into the deficit slightly in the final minutes of the half and Moshe Mizrahi's basket from downtown ensured the team trailed 52-41 at halftime. Effi Birenboim's men continued to eat away at the lead at the start of the second half and Nailon's sharp-shooting skills helped the team close to within five points (54-49). Jerusalem, though, beat back its rivals' comeback attempt and a Tapiro three pushed the lead back into double-digits. A Pnini basket from beyond the arc put the margin at 11 points once more 30 seconds before the end of the third quarter, but after a Mizrahi triple at the other end, Bnei Hasharon was looking at an eight-point deficit (71-63) as it headed into the final period. Five straight points by Bowers at the start of the fourth period extended Hapoel's lead to 16 points, but Nailon's heroics brought his team back to within nine points with less than four minutes remaining in the game. However, Bnei Hasharon failed to mount a serious challenge in the remainder of the game and Jerusalem cruised into the final. SEMIFINALS Tuesday Hapoel Jerusalem 96, Bnei Hasharon 83 Mac Tel Aviv 93, Hap Galil Elyon-Golan 87 FINALS Thursday Third-place game - Bnei Hasharon vs Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan Championship game - Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Jerusalem All games at Nokia Arena.