|Darryl Monroe came up with the big play to propel Maccabi Rishon past Maccabi Tel Aviv|
Maccabi Rand Media Rishon, the only team to have defeated champions Fraport Skyliners in the FIBA Europe Cup, has stunned powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv to reach its first Israeli Winner BSL League final since 1991.
Rishon edged out Tel Aviv 71-69 in the semi-final of the Israeli league Final Four at Jerusalem Arena and in the title game they will face hosts Hapoel, who prevailed 82-78 over Eliat in the other semi-final.
Center Darryl Monroe had delivered a string of fantastic displays all season long and was even voted by fans in the Starting Five of the FIBA Europe Cup but on Monday night he came up with arguably his best play of the year to lift Rishon to victory.
With 15.6 seconds left on the clock and the scores in the semi-final tied at 69, Monroe received in the low post with his back to the basket and used an excellent spin move to create space and lay the ball in to put Rishon in the lead.
Tel Aviv had the last possession but their two contested three-point shots, first by Taylor Rochestie and then by Guy Pnini, did not drop and Rishon punched their second trip to the league finals in club history. Tel Aviv meanwhile will go two consecutive years without winning the domestic crown, an occurrence that has not taken place in almost 50 years.
Mark Lyons was Rishon's best player during the first half and his performance prevented Tel Aviv from opening up a bigger gap than the slim 36-34 lead they took at the interval.
Tel Aviv's lead remained unchanged, 57-55 at the end of the third frame and the two opponents continued to trade blows until Monroe's dagger resolved the tight clash.
Monroe finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds, Lyons added 19 points, six boards and six assists while Chris Wright chipped in with 15 points.
Arik Shivek, who replaced Sharon Drucker as Rishon head coach in April following the end of the FIBA Europe Cup campaign, was at the helm of Eliat last year when they eliminated Tel Aviv in the play-offs.
"It felt something like a déjà vu," said Shivek understandably. "This is one of the greatest wins of my career. The players are having an heroic post-season."
Rishon had finished the regular season in sixth spot but dispatched of third-placed Maccabi Haifa 3-2 in the quarter-final play-offs to reach the Final Four.