Maccabi Tel Aviv’s basketball team won the Israel State Cup on Thursday, beating visiting Maccabi Haifa 76-68 at the Nokia Arena.
The players in blue and yellow lifted the cup for the 40th time, further cementing their dominance as the winningest team in Israeli basketball.
“It’s not my title, it belongs to the team,” Tel Aviv’s coach David Blatt said with a smile after the final buzzer. What’s important is that the team has character and the players come to work hard every day, the winning coach stated.
“We paid a price for our inexperience,” Haifa point guard Gal Mekel told reporters, giving credit to his opponents. Mekel — who also plays for the national team and led all scorers with 28 points — said he hoped to be on the floor at the end of the season for the championship game.
“We were a good team before the game, and that hasn’t changed,” he said of the loss.
After a rather one-sided first half that saw Tel Aviv take an 11 point advantage to the locker rooms, Haifa’s players entered the third quarter with determination, trimming Tel Aviv’s lead to a mere four points.
Mekel led an inspiring fourth quarter charge, and Haifa managed to pull the score even at 61 with less than five minutes to go.
However, successful free throws from Israeli international Yogev Ohayon and an important three-pointer by Devin Smith put Tel Aviv up for good.