Few realistically doubted what the outcome would be of Maccabi Tel Aviv's State Cup Final against an inferior Barak Netanya, but a melee that broke out late in the third quarter did come as a surprise. Maccabi hoisted its 38th cup after a 106-70 romp over Netanya.
While this cup will be lost among the myriad of others in time, several players and fans will remember the fight that erupted in the second half.
Tempers started rising early in the third quarter, as Maccabi Tel Aviv and Netanya players jawed at each other. Frustration among the Netanya players, who trailed 49-26 at halftime and were falling even further behind, was growing.
With 3:54 remaining in the third period, and Maccabi leading by a commanding 26-point lead, Romeo Travis got into a tussle with David Blu while jockeying for rebounding position and knocked him to the parquet.
The two were far away from the ball, and the other players rushed over to join in what turned into a free-for-all. Some of the players tried to physically separate those were fighting from one another, but others, like Greek Maccabi center Sofoklis Schortsanitis took the opportunity to get in a few jabs.
When the smoke cleared, the referees ejected two players from each team from the game - Blu and Schortsanitis from Maccabi, and Travis and Adrian Banks from Netanya.
It took several minutes before nerves were calmed enough to continue the game, and Maccabi picked up where it left off and went on another run to stretch the lead to 32 by the end of the quarter.
Despite the final score, Netanya deserves credit for withstanding the pressure of playing in Tel Aviv and making it this far. Netanya Coach Arik Alfasi declared before the final he wasn't bothered by the predictions of a blowout and would concentrate on preventing Maccabi from going on a big run in the first quarter to keep his team in the game.
Indeed, the team accomplished that mission, staying within a respectable 22-14 through the first 10 minutes. Had Netanya made some of its open looks from beyond the arc, that margin would have been even smaller.
The problem was that what Maccabi failed to do in the first quarter, it took care of in the second. It held Netanya without a basket for six minutes during a 17-0 run that undid all the visitors' previous work, making its latest cup inevitable.
Guy Pnini led Maccabi with 21 points and dished out eight assists. Banks had 22 points for Netanya.
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