Maccabi Tel Aviv reigns once again

Late Hapoel Jerusalem comeback falls short in State Cup final.

maccabi win trophy298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
maccabi win trophy298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Maccabi Tel Aviv used a 21-3 second-quarter run to break the game open and withstood a furious fourth-quarter Hapoel Jerusalem comeback to win its ninth straight State Cup title, 96-91, in front of a sold-out crowd at Nokia Arena on Sunday night. For the first time in his Maccabi career, captain Derrick Sharp took the cup from President Moshe Katsav and lifted it together with all of the team's first-year players - Will Solomon, Sharon Shason, rookie Omri Casspi, and foreigners Jamie Arnold and Kirk Penney. Former Jerusalem star Solomon led Maccabi with 24, as each of the players in the limited rotation stepped up. The Euroleague champs were without injured Tal Burstein and foreign players Arnold and Penney, who could not dress due to competition regulations that limit each team to four foreign players. "It means a lot to us," Sharp said. "It came out well in the end, these games are never easy." The first 15 minutes were the best basketball Israel has to offer. Mario Austin carried Hapoel, scoring eight of the team's first 12 points, while Solomon netted 12 in the first quarter, including making 8-of-8 from the line as Maccabi held a 23-20 lead after 10 minutes. Maccabi made its move midway through the second period when Shason, Anthony Parker and again Shason connected on back-to-back-to-back threes, followed by a Parker to Baston fast-break dunk to ignite the big Maccabi run. Parker dished two assists during the run. Hapoel called timeout and Austin sank a pair of free throws to stop the Jerusalem drought, but a Sharp three and a Baston slam kept Tel Aviv in control and soon another Sharp trifecta and Sharp steal to set up a Solomon layup that made it 44-27 with 4:01 left in the half. Parker would take the lead up to 18 and Hapoel could only close the gap to 54-40 by halftime. The second half started with what seemed like a three-point shooting contest, but even after Hapoel closed the gap to 11, Maccabi came out on top as a rare Baston trifecta made it 65-51. He then took a perfect pass from Nikola Vujcic to throw down an alley-oop dunk as the momentum remained yellow-and-blue. Sharp's three gave Tel Aviv its biggest lead of the night, 76-53, but Hapoel never quit. Solomon committed a breakaway foul on Jenkins, which ended up being worth five points when all was said and done, and a pair of Tamar Slay buckets closed the gap to 76-62. Solomon helped Maccabi climb back to a 17-point advantage, but Hapoel used threes from Roger Mason Jr. and Jenkins to get within 83-74 early in the fourth. Hapoel continued to chip away at Maccabi, first getting within eight on a Matan Naor three-pointer and then after a Naor steal and an Austin hoop, helped by a Baston goaltending call, to 89-83 with 3:21 left on the clock. Much of the closing minutes was defined by free throws, but nevertheless Hapoel would find a way to get within four - 93-89 on an Ido Kozikaro free throw with 26.4 seconds to go. After Yaniv Green made one on the next play, Hapoel called timeout and Mason missed a three with 13 seconds left and Solomon made two free throws two seconds later to seal the win. Scorers for Maccabi: Will Solomon 24, Maceo Baston 21, Derrick Sharp 18, Anthony Parker 17, Sharon Shason 8, Nikola Vujcic 7, Yaniv Green 1. Scorers for Hapoel: Horace Jenkins 25, Mario Austin 24, Roger Mason Jr. 15, Tamar Slay 13, Ido Kozikaro 7, Matan Naor 3, Meir Tapiro 2, Erez Marckovich 2. Jeremy Last contributed to this report.