(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Defying most prognosticators, Israeli underdog Maccabi Tel Aviv won its sixth European basketball title on Sunday, with a 98-86 victory over Real Madrid at the Mediolanum Forum in Milan. After the final buzzer sounded, Maccabi players and coaches celebrated on the court while the more than 9,000 Maccabi fans who made the trip to Milan cheered on ecstatically in the stands.
Back in Tel Aviv, the victory set off festive revelry in the streets, with thousands of people filling Rabin Square. During the game, bars throughout the city were packed with fans watching the action on large screens.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres called Maccabi coach David Blatt on Sunday night to congratulate him on the win.
“You did it big time,” Netanyahu told Blatt. “We have always been on the map, but you kept us on the map in such an impressive way.” Peres, 90, joked that the game had almost given him a heart attack. “The whole country is yellow tonight,” Peres said. “The team fought like lions and won. It was amazing. Congratulations Maccabi—Israel is proud of you.”
Guard Tyrese Rice led Maccabi with 26 points, 21 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. Rice, who hit the game-winning shot in Maccabi’s semifinal victory over CSKA Moscow on Friday, was named the MVP of the 2014 Euroleague Final Four.