Mac TA routs Hapoel J'lem for 13th straight title

The BSL did everything it could to breath life into the battle for the championship, but Maccabi Tel Aviv wouldn't cooperate.

tony parker 88 (photo credit: )
tony parker 88
(photo credit: )
The BSL did everything it could to breath life into the battle for the championship, but Maccabi Tel Aviv wouldn't cooperate. Maccabi trounced Hapoel Jerusalem 96-66 in the BSL title game Thursday night at Nokia Arena to earn its 13th consecutive Israeli championship. With the title being decided by a single, winner-takeall game for the first time, there was hope that a strong game from Jerusalem would make for a memorable evening. But ultimately, the story was all Maccabi, which has failed to win the title just once since 1970. Even a reported fat bonus that Hapoel president Arkadi Gaydamak didn't do the trick, as the Maccabi fans on hand had the opportunity to bid farewell to retiring coach Pini Gershon in style. Nikola Vujcic, whose contract is expiring and could also have played his last game for Maccabi, led the perennial champs with 20 points, while Will Solomon torched his former club for 14 points and seven steals. Anthony Parker added 13 points and eight assists and Derrick Sharp and Sharon Shason had 12 apiece for Maccabi. The only bad news came when Tal Burstein went down with an apparent Achilles injury and did not return. The severity of the injury was unknown, but it did raise concern that he would not be available to play for the national team this summer. Tamar Slay led Hapoel with 20, followed by Mario Austin's 18. Maccabi came out on fire, holding Hapoel scoreless for over three-and-a-half minutes as it built a 9-0 lead. Even after Austin finally put the reds on the board, Maccabi remained in control and soon took its advantage to double figures behind threes from Sharp and Shason. Jerusalem closed the gap to 29-25 on a Matan Naor three and a long Roger Mason Jr. jumper, but couldn't keep the momentum going. Maccabi surged ahead by 12 after back-to-back Burstein and Shason threes in the final minute of the first half, and a Solomon steal - his sixth of the half - threatened to break Hapoel for good. A hard Ido Kozikaro foul on Shason shook up the Maccabi player, who retreated to the locker room and although replacement Sharp made one free throw, a Mason buzzer-beater closed the gap to 45-35 at halftime and gave the reds hope. Maccabi came out hungrier after the break, quickly pushing its lead to 14 on a Solomon trifecta. But with Solomon soon picking up his fourth foul and later in the period Shason joining him, Tel Aviv was unable to pull away and eventually Jerusalem found a way back, cutting the gap to 60-54 on an Austin triple. But that would be as close as it would get. Hapoel went scoreless for the next three-and-a-half minutes and Maccabi pulled away for good. A three and then two free throws from Sharp gave the hosts a seemingly insurmountable 71-54 advantage early in the fourth period. The lead would grow to 20 a minute later on a Shason three as the yellow half of the arena began to sing in anticipation of captain Sharp lifting the championship plate for the first time. Earlier, Maccabi Rishon defeated Ironi Naharyia 87-84 to capture third place in the BSL. The win was a perfect ending for Guy Goodes's men after their excellent regular season campaign, in which they also finished third. John Gilchrist led Rishon with 23 points, while Omar Sneed shined with 19 points and eight rebounds. Alvin Young paced Naharyia with 23 points, seven rebounds and five steals.