Maccabi advances to Israeli League finals
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv is headed back to the Israeli League finals in search of its 55th national title after pulling off a late comeback to beat host Hapoel Eilat 79-80 on Tuesday and sweep their best-of-three semifinal series. Eilat jumped out to an early 12-5 edge but Maccabi used a 2-10 run to lead before the first quarter ended 20-20. Eilat started the second quarter, strong, too, going ahead 33-26 and holding that pace to keep a 48-40 halftime advantage. Maccabi reasserted itself defensively out of the locker room with 8 of the first 10 points after halftime but Eliat still held a 58-54 advantage after 30 minutes. Maccabi stayed on Eilat's heels into the final minutes and took a 77-78 lead with 12 seconds remaining, downing a pair of free throws after that to make sure. Chris Jones starred for Maccabi with 27 points, including 9-for-12 two-point shooting, while Scottie Wilbekin added 15. Omri Casspi and Othello Hunter scored 9 points each. Eilat's Casey Prather had 28 points before leaving injured late in the game. Maccabi will play the winner between the other semifinalists, Hapoel Holon and Gilboa Galil, in a best-of-three final series starting on Sunday.
Valencia ties Spanish League semifinal with Real
Valencia Basket forced a deciding third game in the Spanish League semifinals on Tuesday by handily downing Real Madrid 85-67 to tie their best-of-three series 1-1. Louis Labeyrie led a strong bench effort by the winners with 18 points. Mike Tobey also came off the bench for 13 points, as did Klemen Prepelic with 11. All told, Valencia's reserves poured in 59 points on the night. Real got 13 points from Jaycee Carroll but no one else could break into double digits as Valencia controlled the scoreboard from tipoff to final buzzer. Valencia pulled away to a 24-18 advantage after 10 minutes then turned the screws in a 20-11 second quarter to lead 44-29 at the half. The hosts were content to match Real's scoring the rest of the way as the lead climbed to a high of 24 points in the fourth quarter. Game 3 on Thursday will decide which of the two teams advances to the finals to face either FC Barcelona or Lenovo Tenerife.
Buducnost, Mornar return to Montenegrin finals
Buducnost VOLI Podgorica and Mornar Bar will play in the Montenegrin League finals for the fifth consecutive time together after both teams swept their best-of-three semifinal series with road wins on Tuesday. Buducnost ran away late from host Lovcen 1947 Cetinje to win 72-99. An 8-27 difference in the final quarter, including an 0-18 finishing run, made a close game look like a blowout at the end. Buducnost used an early 0-10 run to take control of the scoreboard at 5-14 behind 6 points from Luka Mitrovic. But the visitors needed to answer Lovcen's 8-0 run to a 25-23 lead with their own 9-0 response early in the second quarter as Zoran Nikolic scored 3 baskets in a row. Buducnost would take the difference to 47-56 after halftime and fight off a Lovcen surge to hold a 67-72 advantage after Fedor Zugic ended the third quarter with a triple. Dragan Apic and Justin Cobbs combined on the first 7 points of the fourth, taking the margin into double digits on the way to a new trip to the finals. Zoran Nikolic led the winners with 22 points while Zugic added 17, Nikola Ivanovic 12 and Cobbs 11.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mornar rallied in the fourth quarter to eclipse host Studentski Centar 74-81 to win their series 2-0, as well. In a game so tight that there were 16 ties and 15 lead changes, Studenski used an 11-0 run to lead 64-59 midway through the third quarter. Mornar scored the next 9 points in a row to rebalance the game at 67-71 lead after 30 minutes and then pulled away with a 10-20 fourth-quarter surge to advance. Nemanja Vranjes led the charge for Mornar with 22 points while making 5 of 8 three-point shots. Milko Bjelica added 15 points and Nemanja Gordic 13 for the winners. Igor Drobjnak led Studentski with 22 points and 10 assists.