Maccabi Tel Aviv withstood a tenacious attack from Bnei Hasharon last night to win the 2009-10 State Cup final 77-70, its first Cup in four seasons.
The first quarter was all Maccabi's, as the home team's devastating offense built up a 10-point lead and readied itself for an easy night against the upstart team representing Herzliya and Ra'anana. But the second quarter was another story, as the visitors went on a 10-0 run, and dropped the lead to 5 by the half.
Bnei Hasharon continued fighting in the second half and cut the margin to a single point late in the fourth, but a rousing dunk by Stephane Lasme swung the momentum back to Tel Aviv. A foul on Derrick Sharp in the final minute - the veteran Maccabi captain sank both foul shots - dashed any hopes of an upset.
President Shimon Peres presented the cup to Sharp and his teammates while the 11,000 rowdy fans at the Yad Eliahu arena let their satisfaction be known. Maccabi - by far the most successful team in the competition's five-decade history with 37 cups - had never gone more than three seasons without winning the State Cup, a record fans were pleased to see remain intact.
Bnei Hasharon coach Dan Shamir, formerly Gershon's assistant in Tel Aviv, said tearfully, "We did great things, but they weren't enough. In the last few minutes the ball went where we wanted, but we weren't able to make the shots. The better team won tonight."
Bnei Hasharon captain Erez Katz added, "We were one basket away from turning the game around with just a minute to go. If we had made it, there's no way of knowing what would have happened."
Tel Aviv coach Pini Gershon struck a characteristically blustery tone: "To say we're better and deserve to take the cup, that's not boasting. I don't think that telling the truth is bragging. I'm not dumb, and I won't lie to you."
"Before the game I told the players that if they love Derrick, they should send him to meet the president," he said of Sharp, rumored to be considering hanging up his sneakers in the not-too-distant future.
"We're going for all three titles," Tel Aviv power forward David Bluthenthal said, referring to the cup, league championship and Euroleague. "We took one, now we have two more left."
Bluthenthal led Maccabi scorers with 14, and point man Andrew Wisniewski put on a standout performance with 11 points and 9 assists. Center Shawn James logged 20 points and 12 rebounds for Bnei Hasharon.
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