Jerusalem, Ris­hon to joust in in­trigu­ing fi­nal

Fa­vored Hapoel dis­patches South­ern­ers late Mac­cabi Tel Aviv de­feated in tight semi

The Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS - By ALLON SI­NAI

Hapoel Jerusalem looks to claim its sec­ond straight BSL cham­pi­onship when it faces Mac­cabi Ris­hon Lezion in the Fi­nal Four fi­nal on Thurs­day night, with Mac­cabi Tel Aviv’s sea­son once more end­ing in dis­ap­point­ment.

Jerusalem de­feated Hapoel Ei­lat 82-78 in the sec­ond Fi­nal Four semi­fi­nal at the Jerusalem Arena on Mon­day night af­ter Ris­hon shocked Tel Aviv 71-69, with the yel­low-and-blue be­ing knocked out in the semi­fi­nals for a sec­ond straight year.

The fi­nal will also be held in Jerusalem, an ad­van­tage af­forded to Hapoel af­ter it fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son in first place.

For the first time in 50 years, Mac­cabi Tel Aviv will go two con­sec­u­tive sea­sons with­out win­ning the Is­raeli cham­pi­onship, cap­ping one of its worst-ever cam­paigns af­ter also be­ing sent pack­ing in the Euroleague reg­u­lar sea­son.

A Dar­ryl Mon­roe bas­ket with 15.6 sec­onds to play gave Ris­hon the de­ci­sive lead, with Tay­lor Rochestie and Guy Pnini missing at the other end to bring Tel Aviv’s dis­mal sea­son to a close.

Last sea­son, Mac­cabi be­came just the sec­ond team to squan­der a 2-0 lead in the play­offs, be­ing up­set in a best-of-five semi­fi­nal se­ries against Ei­lat, which was guided by cur­rent Ris­hon coach Arik Shivek.

“I feel empty,” said Tel Aviv coach Zan Tabak, who was signed last Novem­ber to re­place Guy Goodes and will not con­tinue for an­other sea­son. “When you put all your en­ergy and all your fo­cus into one game and you lose like this you feel empty.”

Mon­roe led Ris­hon with 20 points and eight re­bounds, with Mark Lyons scor­ing 19 points and Chris Wright adding 15 points.

“I felt a bit of a déjà vu,” said Shivek af­ter Ris­hon reached its sec­ond fi­nal in club his­tory, a first since the 1990/91 cam­paign.

“This is one of the great­est wins of my ca­reer. The play­ers are having a heroic post­sea­son.”

Rochestie had 20 points for Mac­cabi, with Yo­gev Ohayon scor­ing 15 for the yel­low-and-blue, which shot just 35 per­cent (14-of-40) from two-point range com­pared to Ris­hon’s 57 per­cent (25-of-44).

Ei­lat got the sec­ond semi off to the bet­ter start, but a 12-2 Jerusalem run gave it the lead (17-15). Hapoel’s gap reached nine points (36-27) mid­way through the sec­ond frame, but Ei­lat trimmed the mar­gin to four points (45-41) by the break.

Jerusalem’s ad­van­tage was re­duced to a sin­gle point (63-62) ahead of the fi­nal quar­ter and Ei­lat surged to a four­point (76-72) lead with just un­der five min­utes to play. How­ever, Hapoel would re­spond with a game-win­ning 9-0 run over the next four min­utes to keep Jerusalem’s dream of de­fend­ing the league ti­tle alive.

Lior Eliyahu had 16 points and 12 re­bound for Jerusalem, with E.J. Row­land adding 15 points. DeAn­dre Kane fin­ished with 22 points and 13 boards for Ei­lat, with Alade Aminu con­tribut­ing 20 points and 16 re­bounds.

There was lit­tle to sep­a­rate Tel Aviv and Ris­hon in the first half, with the for­mer hold­ing a two-point lead (36-34).

Af­ter ad­mit­ting ahead of the game that he was up­set at be­ing left out of both the first and sec­ond All-BSL teams, Mark Lyons scored half of Ris­hon’s point in the first two pe­ri­ods. He only net­ted two more un­til the end of the game, but Ris­hon still found a way to win.

Tel Aviv still held a two-point edge (57-55) en­ter­ing the fi­nal 10 min­utes and was well placed af­ter Gal Mekel’s three-pointer opened a 69-65 ad­van­tage with 1:45 min­utes re­main­ing. Those would prove to be Mac­cabi’s fi­nal points of the night though, with Mon­roe scor­ing the go-ahead bas­ket and the yel­low-and-blue squan­der­ing two chances to win at the buzzer.

“We didn’t want to end the sea­son like this,” said Mekel. “This is a very big dis­ap­point­ment. We be­lieved we could win the cham­pi­onship but this is part of our lives as bas­ket­ball play­ers. This is an un­ac­cept­able way to fin­ish the sea­son at Mac­cabi and we will have to deal with this.”

(Eran Luf)

MAC­CABI RIS­HON LEZION guard Mark Lyons (left) drives to the bas­ket for two of his 19 points in last night’s 71-69 sur­prise win over Mac­cabi Tel Aviv in the BSL Fi­nal Four semi­fi­nals at the Jerusalem Arena.

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