MILAN (Reuters) - Maccabi Tel Aviv, rank outsiders in the Euroleague Final Four, capped a memorable weekend with a 98-86 overtime win over Real Madrid to clinch their fifth title in Europe’s premier club competition on Sunday.
Guard Tyrese Rice produced his second effervescent performance to lead the Israeli side with a game-high 26 points after scoring a last-gasp winner in Friday’s 68-67 semi-final win over CSKA Moscow.
Real, chasing a record ninth trophy in Europe’s premier club competition, were strong favourites after crushing Spanish rivals Barcelona 100-62 in the semis.
Led by former Portland Trailblazers guard Rudy Fernandez, they seemed to be cruising after a 19-2 run midway through the first half gave them an 11-point lead.
But Maccabi closed the gap with a barrage of fast breaks and the rollercoaster continued as the lead kept changing hands.
The Israeli side contained Fernandez in the second half and were on the verge of winning the game in regular time but threw away a four-point lead in the last minute as Rice missed an open three-point shot on the buzzer.
Having won the last six meetings between the two sides, including their Top 16 doubleheader in this term’s regular season, it seemed that a more resourceful Real side would shake off the disappointment of losing last year’s final to Olympiakos Piraeus in London.
But they were undone by livewire Rice in overtime after the tireless playmaker scored 14 points in the additional five minutes and sent the 10,000 passionate Maccabi fans into raptures at the Mediolanum Forum Arena.
“It’s a great feeling and a fitting end as we have worked for this for 10 months,” Maccabi president Shimon Mizrahi told Euroleague television.
“After we beat Emporio Armani Milan in the best-of-five quarter-final series despite them having the home court advantage, we knew this could be our season. There were more than 10,000 Maccabi fans here who roared us on and gave us the strength to go all the way.”
Centre Alex Tyus was attempting to come to terms with the achievement.
"I am still trying to soak it up and it’s amazing," he said.
"Nobody believed in us earlier in the season but we kept working hard and made it happen. Real are big, talented and very experienced but we played with hunger and a desire to make a name for ourselves."
Barcelona beat Russian champions CSKA 93-78 in the third-place playoff.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Ed Osmond)