By Dov Halickman
The Israel State Cup Basketball final this year garnered interest even before it started. Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv – in one of the worst seasons in club history played against another team in Yellow-and-Blue who actually are having a terrific campaign as Maccabi Ashdod advanced to the finals for the first time. To add even more innuendo, Ashdod’s coach, Tzvika Sherf happened to face his former team in a game that would be very emotional with the veteran coach having not won the title since the early 1990’s.
With Israel President Ruby Rivlin looking on, the first quarter saw Ashdod looking very insecure and nervous knowing what was at stake in this one game take it all contest. On the other side of the floor, Taylor Rochestie (8 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers while playing fantastic defense as well to help Tel Aviv take an 8-point lead after ten minutes, 26-18.
Maccabi went up by 20-points, 48-28 with 2:46 left in the half with the help of stellar play by standout guard and game MVP Gal Mekel. Mekel dropped 21 points, handed out 6 assists and went a perfect 6/6 from the charity stripe as Zan Tabak has found a true floor general and leader on the Menora Mivtachim court.
But an Ashdod 10-2 run led by Charles Thomas, who finished the half with 21-points (30 points overall) brought the deficit down to 12 points, 50-38 as the players headed into the lockerrooms after 20 minutes of action.
Ashdod continued to chip away at the Maccabi advantage and with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter the lead had whittled down to just six points. Turnovers, which have plagued Maccabi all season long and poor decision making allowed Ashdod to pull within only a couple of points with just minutes left in the thrilling final.
However, Maccabi held on and found the wherewithal in the last quarter to lift the Cup in a 83-75 victory. Devin Smith (14 points) who will be undergoing knee surgery in the coming weeks played an inspired 27 minutes helping his side to the victory while Sylvan Landesberg added 14 points of his own.