By Amy Samin
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv has claimed the 2011 – 2012 Israel Cup (the 39th in the club’s history) following their 82 – 69 victory over Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion. Keith Langford, who dreamt of winning his first-ever cup title, led all scorers with 23 points. Team captain Tal Burstein and the man with the golden hands, David Blu (who was 4 of 5 from three point range) each added 12 points. Richard Hendrix nearly grabbed a double double, with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Congratulations to Yogev Ohayon on winning his first-ever Israeli title.
Head coach David Blatt led off with Richard Hendrix, Devin Smith, Lior Eliyahu, Yogev Ohayon, and Keith Langford. The quarter opened with seven straight points from Langford and tough defense on the other end, but eventually Adrian Uter put points on the board for Rishon Lezion, three minutes into the period. Joe Crawford added two straight buckets to narrow the gap to 9 – 6, but Eliyahu, Hendrix and Langford all scored to open things up to 15 – 6 with just over three minutes left in the quarter. Crawford made good use of two separate trips to the charity stripe, but good ball movement by Maccabi resulted in points by Eliyahu, and Guy Pnini added a deuce on a drive to the basket, 19 – 10 Maccabi. The buzzer sounded as Langford (who finished the period with 12 points) sank a shot from downtown, ending the quarter with Maccabi leading 24 – 13.
The only points in the first two and a half minutes of the second quarter came from Uter at the foul line, until a putback by Hendrix put Maccabi’s lead back into double digits, 26 – 16. Langford added a putback of his own, as well as a layup and 1 to make it 30 – 19 after three and a half minutes. Derwin Kitchen downed a three pointer and Crawford scored as well to make it a six point game, 30 – 24 just past the halfway mark in the period. Sofo Schortsanitis and Tal Burstein scored for Maccabi, but Crawford, Brandon Bowman and Kitchen responded and suddenly Rishon was down by only five with two minutes left in the half. A steal by Burstein set the scene for Pnini, the King of Clutch, to score one of his patented threes from the corner (assist Eliyahu) to make it 39 – 31. Soon after, Langford picked Kitchen’s pocket and was fouled on the way to the basket; his two free throws put Maccabi’s lead at 41 – 31 with 45 seconds left on the clock. A timeout called by Blatt laid the groundwork for a David Blu-tiful catch and shoot from the top of the arc on the inbounds. Crawford had time to score for Rishon, but the half ended on points from Maccabi’s captain, and the teams went into the halftime break with Maccabi up 46 – 34.
The third quarter opened with the teams trading baskets, as Burstein, Hendrix and Smith all scored for Maccabi and with Kitchen and Nitzan Hanochi racking up points for Rishon Lezion. Hendrix pulled down four defensive boards in the first half of the quarter to prevent Rishon from doing more than keeping the score more or less even; at the midway point in the period it was 52 – 42. Sofo battled his way to a putback while Maccabi’s strong defense broke up Rishon’s offensive plays. Langford added a stop and pop which was followed by two straight treys by David Blu (assists Sofo and Ohayon) to break open the game for Maccabi, 64 - 44 with two minutes left in the quarter. Points by Hendrix ended the period with Maccabi leading 66 – 48.
A layup by Pnini and a one handed dunk by Hendrix kept Maccabi’s lead comfortable early in the fourth quarter, but Crawford and company weren’t ready to concede defeat. Halfway into the period Bowman had cut Maccabi’s lead down to eleven, 72 – 61. Crawford and Kitchen also got back in the act, closing the gap to nine with just under two minutes left in the game, 75 – 66. Maccabi’s defense stepped up to hold Rishon scoreless for most of the time remaining, and a final three pointer from Blu off a dish from Burstein wrapped up the 82 – 69 Israel Cup win for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over Maccabi Offici Rishon Lezion.
Maccabi: Langford 23 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Burstein 12 points, 4 assists, 1 steal; Blu 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist; Hendrix 10 points, 9 rebounds; Schortsanitis 8 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Pnini 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Eliyahu 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Ohayon 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Smith 2 points.
Top scorers for Rishon Lezion: Crawford 20 points; Kitchen 18 points; Bowman 15 points.