|Maccabi's David Blu with the Israeli League and Cup trophies (photo: Oded Karni)|
Maccabi Tel Aviv completed a glorious season treble on Wednesday night and reached an almost unimaginable, certainly enviable, milestone by collecting their 100th trophy in the club's history.
David Blatt's team, who had won the Israeli Domestic Cup earlier in the season and then stunned favourites Real Madrid to claim the Turkish Airlines Euroleague crown last May, have re-claimed the Israeli Winner League, in extremely dramatic fashion.
The Tel Aviv side exerted revenge against Maccabi Haifa, who had surprised them last season to win the championship title, by prevailing 163-161 on aggregate in the two-legged final.
"You cannot imagine what it meant to gather ourselves and do what we have just done at the end of the year, after the Euroleague," coach Blatt commented.
"It's the hardest thing there is.
"We had many problems, injuries and fatigue, both physical and mental.
"But we dug deep and found the energy within, we did a tremendous thing and we exhausted all our potential.
"I think this season will be remembered for generations," the multi-winning Israeli-American tactician offered.
Despite playing the first leg of the tie on the road, Tel Aviv edged out Haifa 81-77 last Sunday largely thanks to their accuracy from behind the three-point arc, as they shot 10-for-25 from long distance.
The stage was set for Maccabi to celebrate the title conquest in front of their home crowd in Tel Aviv in the return leg on Wednesday, but the defending champions were not going to give up so easily.
Maccabi Tel Aviv led by a single point, 38-37, at half-time but Maccabi Haifa came up with a big third quarter to turn the tables and take a six-point advantage.
A late push by the hosts reduced the gap to a crucial four-point margin, 79-75, at the end of regulation and with the aggregate scores tied at 160, the game had to go into overtime.
Maccabi Haifa prevailed 84-82 after the extra period but Maccabi had held on to defend their four-point lead from the first leg and, despite the loss, they celebrated the title.
Rice, who had 15 points and four assists in the second leg, added another individual award to his collection as he was also named Winner League MVP.
Hickman finished with a team-high 22 points for Tel Aviv in Game 2, while Alex Tyus added ten points and nine rebounds.
Their efforts neutralised another monstrous display by Haifa's Donta Smith, who collected a double-double of a game-high 29 points and 13 rebounds for the outgoing champions.