Maccabi Tel Aviv captured their 54th Israel Basketball League Championship by defeating Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 86-81. The yellow-and-blue used inside power from MVP Amare Stoudemire and Othello Hunter to dominate the paint and neutralize D’Angelo Harrison’s record setting 38 point performance to win their unprecedented title.
Stoudemire and Hunter each scored 18 points, Sandy Cohen recorded his career high with 16 points and Tyler Dorsey added 14 points in the victory. Harrison scored 38 points, Oz Blayzer chipped in with 13 points and Alex Hamilton dropped 11 points in the loss.
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion tipped off a Yad Eliyahu as the two squads looked to end the prolonged season with the championship plate. The Israeli league suspended play back in March with the outbreak of the coronavirus but returned to action three months later with a shortened third round of games and playoffs.
The yellow-and-blue punched their ticket to the final after a 81-78 victory over upstart Hapoel Gilboa Galil thanks to a Scottie Wilbekin triple with 2.7 seconds left in the game. The wine city squad advanced to the championship contest with a dramatic 100-97 win against Hapoel Jerusalem that saw Adam Ariel nail an off balance corner 3-pointer as time expired to set up a rematch of last season’s title match.
Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s crew looked to win their third championship in a row and featured Deni Avdija who would be playing in his final game for the club before heading to the NBA, star guard Scottie Wilbekin, Tyler Dorsey and Othello Hunter. Guy Goodes’s team who last took home the title on 2016 countered with Alex Hamilton, D’Angelo Harrison, Alex Hamilton and Zach Hankins.
Othello Hunter opened the scoring with an uncharacteristic midrange jumper from the big man, Amare Stoudemire put in a layup and Angelo Caloiaro hit a corner 3-pointer, but Oz Blayzer and D’Angelo Harrison answered for Rishon as Maccabi led 9-8 midway through the first quarter. Deni Avdija found nothing but net with a triple from the left elbow, Hunter downed back-to-back dunks, Tyler Dorsey scored for deep twice as Harrison had a trio of 3-pointers but the yellow-and-blue led 29-21 after ten minutes of action.
Stoudemire began the second quarter with a monster slam and Dorsey drained yet another 3-pointer but Oz Blayzer got to work for Rishon, however another triple by Dorsey gave Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team a 41-31 lead with 5:03 left in the first half. Sandy Cohen got into the act from long distance with three triples, Hunter scored a play up while Alex Hamilton tried to keep Guy Goodes’s team relevant but Maccabi took a 54-36 advantage into halftime.
Rishon began cutting the Maccabi lead with a 3-pointer by Adam Ariel, a floater by Darryl Monroe and an off balance layup to bring the score to 58-46 midway through the third quarter. Caloiaro scored off a Wilbekin miss, Sandy Cohen drilled his 4th triple of the game and made a jumper in the paint for Maccabi as Harrison scored at will but a pair of Hunter dunks gave the yellow-and-blue a 69-59 lead after thirty minutes of play.
Jake Cohen scored his first basket of the game for Maccabi in the 4th quarter but Hamilton and Harrison found the bottom of the basket for Rishon to cut the lead to 71-63 with 7:31 remaining in regulation. Harrison scored another layup and a triple while Blayzer was left unattended under the basket as the as Rishon inched closer 75-70 with 3:45 left in the final frame. Stoudemire scored inside twice but a catch and shoot triple by Blayzer, a 3-pointer by Harrison and yet another basket form behind the arc from Ariel brought the score to 82-79 with 1:01 left on the clock.
Harrison hit a pair of free throws while Amare did the same at the other end but Harrison missed a layup and Hunter ripped the rebound out of Hankins’s hands as Wilbekin scored from the charity stripe to wrap up the club’s 54th Israel League Championship.