Maccabi Tel Aviv Champions for a record 56th time

Jun 14, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv captured their 56th Israeli League Championship by defeating Hapoel Tel Aviv 94-90 in a dramatic 2-1 series victory. Lorenzo Brown led the way for the yellow-and-blue from the outset, while Wade Baldwin who was named the series MVP played an integral part in the victory with 22 points a piece.

Oded Katash’s squad came out strong as Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin worked their magic to give Maccabi a slim 26-23 lead after ten minutes, but J’Covan Brown started to heat up for Danny Franco’s team to stay within striking range but down 42-38 at halftime. Baldwin and Roman Sorkin came into the third quarter on a mission and built up the yellow-and-blue lead to double digits after thirty minutes, but a 17-0 run orchestrated by J’Covan Brown, Tomer Ginat and Xavier Munford gave the reds an 85-83 advantage with 2:49 remaining.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

However, Baldwin came up huge with a triple and a quartet of free throws to go along with a pair from the line by Lorenzo Brown to not only retake the lead but to also take home the championship.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Along with scoring 22 points a piece, Lorenzo Brown added 7 assists while Baldwin chipped in with 8 helpers as Sorkin scored 13 points in the win. J’Covan Brown led all scorers with 31 points and dished out 8 assists, Ginat scored 14 points and Munford scored 13 points in the loss.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It was crazy, it’s a great feeling,” an excited Oded Katash said following the game. “We went through a long and intense season that went all the way to the last minute, it was just going to end that way. It was our character that helped us win and it wasn’t going to end easily, but we had to show that character. I don’t remember Hapoel that had been so good even when I was a player. We began the game slowly but then got into a rhythm but when they went on that run, we showed our character and I am so proud. It’s the character of the players that made this season so special.”

Danny Franco – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It’s hard to sum it up after a game like this,” Danny Franco began. “We didn’t play well defensively in the third quarter and allowed Maccabi to create. When Maccabi had the lead we believed that we could come back. You could see it on them, on the floor that they believed. We came into this game believing that we could win and the game was probably the best of the series as we were able to keep our cool. It was the small things though that decided the game. We made it to the last day of the season and that is something that I would have signed on for in the summer. We have to keep building Hapoel Tel Aviv to be a stronger team.”

Lorenzo Brown, Bonzie Colson and Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The MVP Wade Baldwin spoke about winning the championship, “The job is done, we won the league. We hit 2/3 of the goals that we set at the start of the season. Next year all 3, three of our goals have to be met. We will regroup over the summer and have a good one. We lost by 40 in the second game and the next day we were silent, but we came in locked in today. It was amazing!”

Tomer Ginat – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Tomer Ginat reflected on the game, “The home court is huge but we were in this game all the way. They made one or two more plays at the end of the game and we missed out. I think Hapoel Tel Aviv this season was able to do something special to be in the position to win on the last possession of a championship is something really great, but it’s too bad we were there but just missed out. It’s painful.”

The atmosphere around the arena was tense as police and security personnel were posted at every corner and entrance to the facility. Every fan was frisked and bags were checked as there was going to be no chances taken on this night for a repeat of some of the extracurricular activities that took place in game one and game two.

When Hapoel and Maccabi personnel arrived they were also checked by the security guards whether they were players of staff it didn’t matter, there was going to be no chances on this night. From Jordan McRae to Jake Cohen it didn’t matter if you were red or yellow-and-blue, you weren’t going to be able to enter through the glass doors at gate 9 without going through a head to toe check.

Hapoel Tel Aviv fans – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Fans from both teams packed the stands singing at the top of their lungs and waving flags as the music blared from the sound system at the highest volume throughout Yad Eliyahu. Everyone waited to see if Hapoel Tel Aviv fans would light flares at the tip-off, however, to everyone’s amazement it didn’t occur at least just then. At the one minute mark the upper level area where the reds supporters were sitting lit up as flares throughout.

J’Covan Brown and Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Hakickman

J’Covan Brown and Tomer Ginat scored a trio of quick buckets for Hapoel Tel Aviv, Wade Baldwin finally scored for Maccabi Tel Aviv as Alex Poythress and Jake Cohen with a 3-point play cut the reds lead to 11-7 midway through the first quarter. Wade Baldwin went from deep, Lorenzo Brown scored a trio of buckets and a pair of free throws, Tomer Ginat and J’Covan Brown dialled up long distance but Lorenzo Brown nailed one as well off a beautiful screen to give the yellow-and-blue a 26-23 leads after ten minutes of play.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

A number of Hebrew language sports websites in the Holy Land had written about Lorenzo Brown not showing up in big games but he put that to bed very quickly in the first quarter with 11 points including a 3-pointer to finish off the frame in fine fashion. Could he keep it up and would he keep the Brown on the opposite side of the court at bay.

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Bonzie Colson and Jaylen Hoard traded baskets to open the second quarter, John Dibartolomeo went from deep but J’Covan Brown went from the inside and the outside to knot the sores up at 31-31 with five minutes to go in the first half. Dibartolomeo drilled one from the corner, J’Covan once again went from downtown, Ginat and Idan Zalmanson scored, Rafi Menco went from deep and Lorenzo Brown added a deuce to give Oded Katash’s squad a 42-38 advantage at halftime.

If Lorenzo Brown was the man in the first quarter it was J’Covan Brown who put numbers up for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the second quarter whether it was from downtown or from inside the arc, however, while the red Brown did his damage, it was the yellow-and-blue one who scored the last points of the second quarter just as he did the first to give Maccabi a small lead.

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Lorenzo Brown began the third quarter just as he finished off the previous one with points, Poythress dunked and then put down an alley-oop from Baldwin while the guard himself went from downtown as did Colson, J’Covan Brown came back with points but so did Sorkin to keep Maccabi ahead 57-48 midway through the frame. J’Covan Brown put in another layup, Sorkin scored in the paint, Baldwin dunked, Munford went from deep, Sorkin and Baldwin found points as did Lorenzo Brown to put Maccabi in front 75-64 after thirty minutes of action.

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Both Wade Baldwin and Roman Sorkin had been quiet for a half of play but boy did they wake up after the halftime break with oodles of points, rebounds and assists as they helped Maccabi begin to breakaway and go up by 11 points. While it was a tough frame as each side clawed for each point it was Maccabi who started to pick up the steam in what is known in Australian rules football as the Premiership quarter.

Jordan McRae and Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

J’Covan Brown and Jordan McRae scored for Danny Franco’s team while Poythress and Colson did the same for Katash’s squad to get the fourth quarter underway, but baskets by Bar Timor scored, more points from Brown and Ginat capped off a 17-0 run to give Hapoel an 85-83 lead with under three minutes left in regulation time.

Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

However, Baldwin went from downtown and then hit four free throws in a row to help Maccabi retake the lead but McRae nailed a tough 3-pointer to stay close, but fittingly it was Lorenzo Brown who scored two from the charity stripe to wrap up the title.

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