By Amy Samin
After Maccabi Haifa won their spot in the final by defeating Hapoel Jerusalem in the first semifinal game of the evening, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv did the same, barely, defeating Galil/Gilboa 72 – 70.
The final will take place on Thursday at .
With Marcus Brown sidelined by an injury, Tal Burstein took the starting spot, along with Omri Casspi, Carlos Arroyo, Lior Eliyahu and D’or Fischer.
Elishay Kadir, Gal Mekel, Brian Roberts, Brian Randle and Dion Dowell started for Galil/Gilboa.
Perhaps the occasion affected the players, but two minutes into the game the score remained at goose eggs.
Maccabi was the first to score, and with four and a half minutes gone led 7 – 2.
After a few minutes of good play Maccabi slowed down and started having trouble finding the basket, allowing Galil/Gilboa to get into the game, putting the score at 11 – 7 with two and a half minutes left in the period.
Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon sent in Dee Brown from the bench, and the speedy guard quickly got Maccabi back on track.
The first quarter ended with Maccabi in the lead 17 – 9.
Maccabi kept the momentum going at the start of the second quarter, with a three-pointer by Dee Brown and two baskets by Fischer putting Maccabi up 24 – minutes.
Maccabi continued to keep up a tight defense, while at the other end Eliyahu and Casspi kept the team’s lead in double digits.
With four minutes left in the half, Maccabi’s lead stood at 27 – 15.
Galil/Gilboa put on some pressure and started making a comeback, but once again Dee Brown was in the right place at the right time, scoring from outside the arc and at the line.
Maccabi extended their lead to 14, but mistakes on defense and a three-pointer at the buzzer by Roberts closed out the half with the score 37 – 30.
A three-pointer by Mekel at the start of the third quarter shrank the gap to six, but Maccabi’s front line took control and reopened a comfortable lead, 51 – 39 halfway through the period.
Then, like in the first half, Maccabi suddenly lost their momentum and their sharpness on offense, and Galil/Gilboa was able to take advantage, bringing the score to 57 – 50 after a dunk by Randle with a minute and a half left in the quarter.
Another shot by Galil/Gilboa ended the period with the score 58 – 52.
A three-pointer from Dowell put Galil firmly back in the game and the score at 58 – 55 a minute and a half into the final quarter.
Maccabi responded with two buckets by Arroyo, but an amazing performance by Galil/Gilboa which included two three-pointers and a basket by Kadir, gave Galil their first lead of the game, 63 – 62 after four minutes of play in the period.
Dowell added another shot from outside, but Arroyo - who was brought to Nokia for exactly this reason - took the game into his own hands, scoring 5 straight and giving Maccabi back the lead, 67 – 66 with four and a half minutes left in the game.
The final minutes of the game were a battle of nerves, with Mekel driving to the basket against Eliyahu and evening the score at 70, with two minutes remaining.
A crucial basket by Eliyahu put Maccabi up 72 – 70 with a minute left, and after an exchange of missed shots, Galil got the chance to tie the score in the final moments.
Mekel, who had possession of the ball in the last seconds, overestimated the time remaining and wasted the opportunity.
The game ended in a victory for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, 72 – 70.
Maccabi: Eliyahu 20 points; Fischer 14 points, 10 rebounds; Casspi 11 points, 9 rebounds; D. Brown 9 points; Arroyo 9 points; Burstein 5 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists; Green 4 points.
Galil Gilboa: Kadir 17 points; Dowell 13 points; Roberts 12 points; Randle 10 points; Swann and Mekel 7 points each; Buckman and Israeli 2 points each.