President Shimon Peres congratulated Maccabi Tel Aviv on its win in the Euroleague basketball final Sunday night, telling the team’s coach David Blatt that he “nearly had a heart attack” while watching the game.
“You are heroes and have brought incredible pride to the state of Israel,” said the president during the phone call, adding “all of Israel is yellow tonight.”
Blatt responded that he and his team “wanted to bring this trophy home as a present to you for all that you have done. This is your leaving present from Maccabi Tel Aviv. I am overjoyed – I feel the sense of pride we have brought to all of Israel, and to the Maccabi Tel Aviv fans in particular for the way they supported the team here.”
Politicians across the board took to Facebook to celebrate the victory, posting congratulatory statuses and photos of themselves watching the game or of the TV screens showing the festivities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a photo of himself watching the screen and wrote simply: “We have the championship!”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman posted a status praising the team, saying “Maccabi has proven this season that in basketball, just like in life, when everyone is united and fights together… to achieve the same goal, anything is possible.”
“We’re back on the map!” proclaimed Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) while Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) expressed his excitement with an overuse of exclamation points that followed the words “the world is yellow.”
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv won the game by 96-86 Sunday night against Real Madrid in Milan in a nail-biting overtime victory.
Maccabi chalked up its first European championship win since back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005, and its sixth overall.
The Tel Aviv team had not been fancied even to make the final four, and only secured its final place with a last-seconds victory over the mighty CSKA Moscow on Friday.
Maccabi point guard Yogev Ohayon, speaking on Israel Radio seconds after Sunday’s victory was sealed, described the win as “unbelievable… I’m in complete shock.”
Other Maccabi players and coaches called it the greatest victory in the team’s history, eclipsing even its first, legendary, “We are on the map” championship in 1977. The delighted surprise at the triumphant culmination of the season contrasted utterly with the team’s shaky start in 2013-14, when it lost numerous domestic games, to the point where there were calls for the sacking of Boston-born coach David Blatt.
Tyrese Rice was Maccabi’s high scorer with 26 points, shooting 75% outside the three point arc and giving Tel Aviv three of its nine three-pointers. He was awarded the MVP award after the game.
Real Madrid set the pace of the game after taking and maintaining the lead 16-15 at the end of the first quarter and holding it for most of the first half. But Maccabi clawed its way back from a 26-16 deficit, and, with a buzzer beating three-pointer, ended the first half down only 35-33.
The two teams traded a one point lead back and forth over a tense third quarter, but Real Madrid kept the lead with a clutch shot from beyond the arc with less than a minute left. Pulling ahead after a neck-and-neck game for the entire second half, Tel Aviv took a four-point lead with a minute left in the fourth quarter, but Real Madrid patched together a couple free throws and a field goal to tie the game at 73 with seconds remaining.
After a quick break, Maccabi broke away in overtime to take a commanding, and ultimately insurmountable lead for the win.