Maccabi Tel Aviv clinched its 47th league championship and 14th straight in a most dramatic fashion Thursday night at Nokia Arena. Jamie Arnold's basket off an offensive rebound with 2.2 seconds remaining gave Maccabi its first lead of the game and secured an 80-78 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem.
Hapoel led throughout the game and seemed to be on its way to an historic Israeli league title. But a late Tel Aviv run secured its 37th championship in the last 38 years.
Will Bynum led Maccabi with 18 points and 5 assists, Tal Burstein had a huge last quarter adding 15 points and 7 rebounds. Jerusalem was led by Mario Austin (16 points) and a heroic display by Meir Tapiro (14 points) wasn’t enough.
Tapiro was leading by example during the first quarter, 24-17 in favor of the reds. Sharo Shason was Maccabi’s main offensive threat in the first half (11 points) and Timmy Bowers's buzzer-beater gave Hapoel a 41-36 halftime lead.
Jerusalem extended the margin to 13 points (51-38), but them Maccabi went on a 12-2 run that closed the gap to three points (53-50). Five points off the bench by Goran Jeretin were pivotal for Tel Aviv's comeback.
Sharp's drawing a foul against Tapiro on a charge in the fourth quarter sent Hapoel's captain off to the bench crying with his fifth foul.
Clutch free throw shooting by Hajaj gave his side a five-point lead (77-72), but a Burstein three and Bynum basket tied the score (77-77).
Austin's successful free throw gave Hapoel a one-point lead, 78-77.
With five seconds remaining in the game, Maccabi's Sharon Shasson missed a jump shot, and it looked like the Reds would seal the victory. But Arnold grabbed the rebound and scored, while drawing a foul, to give the defending champion the sweetest victory.
Maccabi: Bynum 18, Burstein 15, Vujcic 13, Shason 11, Arnold 10, Jeretin 5, Sharp 5, Jasaitis 3.
Jerusalem: Austin 16, Tapiro 14, Jenkuns 13, Bowers 9,
Pnini 8, Morris 8, Hajaj 7, Golematz 2, Markowitz 1.