In the first Tier III semifinal of the day, the 16th seeded MTA Lions took on the 20th seeded Kohelet Kings in the MSAC for a coveted spot in the Tier III championship game. Both teams played late games the previous night, but came out victorious, with wins over (24) Cooper for MTA, and (21) Or Chaim for Kohelet.
Returning to their home court, MTA got out to an early lead on a few good looks at the rim, but Kohelet quickly stormed back with back-to-back 3-pointers. Both teams followed their early game plans through the quarter, MTA working the inside with baskets from Avraham Rivkin, while Kohelet, specifically Daniel Benjamini, continued to knock down threes. By the end of the first, the teams were locked in a tight game, with MTA holding the slight edge, up 13-12.
In the second quarter, both teams got to the line early, but were mostly unable to maximize on the free shots. The teams continued to play similar games, taking advantage of fast breaks on both ends to heat up their scoring. The teams remained evenly matched, with impressive layups from MTA’s Gavriel Rudman being matched by the all around scoring of Benjamini and Asher Kahlon. When the teams hit halftime, MTA had worked to a four point cushion, leading Kohelet 27-23.
MTA opened up the second half with more fantastic plays from Rudman, swerving through Kohelet defenders before finishing with perfect touch. But Kohelet didn’t let themselves fall behind, giving the ball to Benjamini for two more deep threes. MTA began to get plagued by turnovers, allowing Kohelet to grab their first lead since the first minutes of the game. Thanks to an Eli Wallace three pointer, Kohelet held that lead at the quarter’s buzzer, winning 40-38, and setting the teams up for an exciting end.
The fourth quarter saw much of the same results through the first minutes, with Rudman and Kahlon continuing to keep their teams afloat. Kohelet gave MTA trouble in the second half however, and the Kings found themselves in the bonus with six minutes still left on the clock. MTA cleaned up their defense though, and began battling back thanks to great plays to force Kohelet turnovers. With under two minutes left, Wallace and Rudman both hit huge threes to knot the teams up at 57. Kohelet squeaked ahead towards the end, but MTA still had the opportunity to take the game, down only two with seconds to go. Both final shot attempts were unable to fall though, and Kohelet sealed the game with a 62-58 victory.
Kohelet will now take their shot at winning the Tier III championship against (19) JEC, while MTA will battle (18) Mesivta for 19th place.