After losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv five times this season, the Maccabi Haifa basketball team defeated the yellow and blue 86-79 at Haifa’s Romema Arena Thursday to win the 2012-2013 Israeli Basketball Super League Championship.
It was Maccabi Haifa’s first championship since the club was established in 1953.
Led by league MVP Gal Mekel, Haifa got off to a quick start putting up 24 points in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Haifa got in foul trouble when key players Paul Stoll and Donta Smith both got called for their 3rd fouls.
Haifa was able to pull away from Tel Aviv in the second half, outscoring its opponents 49-37. Mekel was named MVP of the game after scoring 21 points and dishing out 7 assists.
Tel Aviv was led by Ricky Hickman who chipped in 28 points. Hickman had no help from the Israeli players, and go-to guard Devin Smith was limited to 9 points.
Haifa owner Jeff Rosen told reporters after the game, “I am so proud of my Maccabi Haifa team! We made history tonight. Our team fought all season long. They said we couldn’t do it, but we did it! From worst to first, Yalla Haifa.”
Maccabi Haifa gambled by bringing in American veteran coach Brad Greenberg this season. Greenberg coached college and NBA basketball, most notably as the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Many Israeli basketball experts did not expect Greenberg to last the whole year, and said that an American coach would not be able to adapt to the Israeli game. With Thursday night’s performance, Greenberg proved them all wrong.
Haifa’s new home court, Romema Arena, opened in southern Haifa, bringing new life to the city and the team. The arena is now the second largest in Israel, and was filled to capacity in Thursday night’s championship game.
Since the 1992-1993 season, Maccabi Tel Aviv has only lost four championship games, but three of those losses have come in the past five years with defeats to Hapoel Holon in 2008, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in 2010 and now Maccabi Haifa.
With Tel Aviv’s latest defeat, many changes should be expected this offseason.