By Amy Samin
After a one year break, Maccabi Tel Aviv is once again – and for the 48th time - Israeli champion.
The 85 – 72 win over Haifa Heat in the Israeli championship game of the 2008/09 season was an exciting one, and came after a one-sided second half dominated by Maccabi.
Carlos Arroyo with 22 points was a standout, team co-captains Derrick Sharp and Tal Burstein contributed key three-pointers, and the yellow-shirted crowd cheered their team all the way to the win.
Maccabi’s starting five included Omri Casspi, Tal Burstein, Carlos Arroyo, D’or Fischer and Lior Eliyahu.
Davon Jefferson, Doron Perkins, Amit Ben David, Moshe Mizrachi and Brooks Sales opened for the Haifa Heat.
As befits a championship game, the start of this one tended to be aggressive and very close, with a battle for every shot, on both sides of the court.
Maccabi tied the score, but were answered by a three-pointer from Malik Dixon which set the score at the end of the first period at 19 – 16.
Maccabi couldn’t find the net, and after two minutes,
At that point, Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon put Derrick Sharp, with his talent for shaking things up, on the court, and got seven straight points from Dee Brown which closed the gap to 34 – 29 within a minute.
The momentum was firmly on Maccabi’s side, with two classic Sharp three-pointers that put Maccabi back on top.
At the end of the half Maccabi’s lead was up to 43 – 39.
A reprise of the Casspiyahu show at the start of the second half expanded Maccabi’s lead, reaching 50 – minutes of play.
An excessive number of fouls were called on both sides in the ensuing minutes, slowing the rhythm of the game to a crawl.
The exchange of free throws kept the score close, and with two and a half minutes left in the period, Maccabi led by three, 59 – 56.
Great plays involving Fischer and Arroyo gave Maccabi some key points in the final minutes of the quarter, and when the buzzer sounded Maccabi’s lead had grown to 65 – 58.
A three-pointer from Burstein was a grace note on strong minutes by Maccabi at the start of the final period, putting Maccabi up 70 – 61 after two minutes.
Although Maccabi took some hits under the basket from the talented
Another pretty shot from outside the arc by Burstein and a drive to the basket by Arroyo put Maccabi comfortably in front, 77 – 64 with five minutes left in the game.
From that point on, Maccabi dominated the game, while
A three-pointer by Casspi sealed the deal with a minute and a half remaining, and Maccabi cruised to another victory and the much longed-for championship title.
Final score: 85 – 72 to Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Israeli Champions of the 2008/09 season!
Maccabi: Arroyo 22 points, 6 assists; Fischer 19 points, 11 rebounds; Casspi 15 points; Eliyahu 9 points; Sharp and D. Brown 7 points each; Burstein 6 points.
Haifa Heat: Perkins 25 points (18/24 from the free throw line); Jefferson 16 points, 12 rebounds; Sales and Mizrachi 8 points each; Dixon 7 points; Ben David 6 points; Kozikaro 2 points.