Mac TA crowned locally for 50th time

After valiant effort from Mac Ashdod, yellow-and-blue pulls away in final frame for title.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv made it a half-century of Israeli championships on Thursday night, beating Maccabi Ashdod 83-63 in the BSL final at Nokia Arena.
Despite being discounted ahead of the Final Four championship game, Ashdod kept pace with Tel Aviv for the first three quarters with an admirable effort.
However, an 11-0 yellowand- blue run to start the fourth period gave Tel Aviv a 19-point gap (72-53) and Maccabi added the local championship to the State Cup and Adriatic League trophies it lifted earlier this season.
After a tight first quarter ended in a two-point Tel Aviv lead (19-17), Maccabi exploded in the second period, hitting three-pointers at will to open a double-digit lead which Ashdod could not erase.
Tel Aviv scored 15 of 24 from three-point range (62 percent), while Ashdod hit only 13 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc (3 of 23).
Devin Smith and Keith Langford led Maccabi with 16 points each, with David Blu scoring 14 and Yogev Ohayon contributing 10 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
Alex Tyus had 16 points and nine boards for Ashdod, which overcame No. 2 seed Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in four games in the playoff quarterfinals before beating No. 3 seed Maccabi Rishon Lezion to reach the final.
Josh Carter and Josh Duncan scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Ashdod, which was playing in its first final in just its second season in the top flight.
Shortly after accepting this season’s MVP award, Lior Eliyahu scored the first points of the night and Tel Aviv opened an early five-point cushion (7-2) following five consecutive points from Ohayon.
However, needles turnovers and bad misses allowed Ashdod back into the game, with a Carter three-pointer cutting the deficit to a single point (14-13) with just over two minutes remaining in the first period.
Two more points by Carter gave Ashdod its first lead of the game, and despite ending the first period down by two points (19-17) following a Langford triple, Ashdod was exactly where it hoped to be after 10 minutes.
A Carter three at the start of the second period saw Ashdod move in front once more (20- 19), but a Tel Aviv bombardment from beyond the arc would follow, opening a double- digit margin from which Ashdod was always going to struggle to come back.
Three triples in quick succession by Blu gave Maccabi a 30- 22 lead and two consecutive three by Smith gave Tel Aviv its biggest gap of the first half (39- 26) with four minutes left in the frame.
Alon Stein, who joined Tel Aviv in the summer mainly to help make up the numbers in training scrimmages, playing just 28 total minutes throughout the regular season, came on late in the first half to allow Ohayon some rest and the 34-year-old’s jumper to end the period made sure Maccabi still held a significant cushion (44-33) at the break.
Tyus, who may well find himself playing for Tel Aviv very soon should he get Israeli citizenship, showed exactly why the yellow-and-blue are interested in his services by scoring five consecutive points to bring Ashdod within six points (48-42).
However, Langford cooled Ashdod’s excitement with a triple at the other end and another long-range basket from Guy Pnini made it an 11- point game (59-48) once more.
Ashdod was still just about within striking distance (61-53) at the start of the fourth frame, but it took over four-and-a-half minutes to score its first points of the quarter, allowing Maccabi to clinch the win with an 11-0 run.
Ohayon orchestrated Maccabi’s surge and Blu’s basket with 5:45 remaining took the gap to 72-53.
Another Tel Aviv three, this time by Smith, made it a 20- point game (75-55) and Maccabi cruised to a third title in the 85th game of its longest ever season.