Thursday's Israeli League championship game will be a repeat from the 2019 final with Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv defending its title against Maccabi Rishon LeZion. Maccabi Tel Aviv survived a stern challenge to edge Galil Gilboa 81-78 in the second semifinal on Sunday night at Menorah Mivtachim Arena. Maccabi led throughout the second half until Akil Mitchell tied it at 78-78 with a three-point play in the final minute. Scottie Wilbekin sank the game-winner in the closing seconds and a great defensive play by Deni Avdija denied Galil a chance to shoot at the final buzzer. Tyler Dorsey led the Maccabi attack with 20 points, Wilbekin finished with 17, Avdija tallied 11 points and 9 rebounds and Othello Hunter had 10 and 8. Iftah Ziv paced Galil with 23 points and Joe Thomasson added 15.
Galil scored the first 6 points of the game to grab an early lead before Maccabi got going. A three by Wilbekin gave Maccabi a 24-22 edge after 10 minutes. Amar'e Stoudemire helped Maccabi open a gap in the second quarter and Avdija made it 43-36 at the break. Maccabi's lead peaked at 13 – twice in the third quarter and again early in the fourth – as the defending champs seemed to have the game wrapped up. However, when Jake Cohen fouled out with 4:30 remaining, Galil gained the momentum and scored 8 straight points to get within 1. Ziv and Mitchell led the late Galil charge, but Wilbekin had the final say.
In the early game, Adam Ariel hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer while falling out of bounds to lift Rishon over Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem 97-100. Ariel, who grew up in the Jerusalem youth team and played three seasons for its senior team, finished with 11 points as was one of six Rishon scorers in double figures. D'Angelo Harrison paced the winners with 21 points and 8 rebounds, Zach Hankins added 20 points, Oz Blayzer scored 16, Darryl Monroe tallied 13 points and 7 assists and Alex Hamilton also scored 11. Jeremy Pargo led Jerusalem with 32 points and James Feldeine netted 18 in defeat. It was a wild finish to a game that surpassed all expectations.
Rishon used an early 0-9 run to take control, led 17-32 after 10 minutes and a pull-up three by Harrison made it 19-41 early in the second quarter. Jerusalem trimmed the margin to 37-50 at halftime and then led by Pargo poured in 41 points in the third quarter to turn the game on its head. It was 78-77 through three quarters and there were five more lead changes early in the fourth quarter. Rishon seemingly had the game in the bag after Harrison free throws made it 92-97 with 19 seconds to go. Pargo steped up with a three-pointer and -after Harrison missed twice from the line – a spinning layup to tie the game with 1.1 seconds left, but that proved to be just enough time for Ariel to sink the game-winner.