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As Maccabiah closes, U.S. men win hoops gold

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The U.S. men’s basketball team needed overtime to win the gold medal a night before the close of the 18th Maccabiah Games.

The Americans upset defending gold medalist Israel, 95-86, in overtime Wednesday night in the finals in Ra’anana. Closing ceremonies were held the next evening in Latrun.

Dan Grunfeld, a former Stanford University standout, powered the U.S. squad with a game-high 25 points. His three-point play with 20 seconds left in regulation tied the score, and he added six points in overtime, according to the University of Tennessee Web site.

Bruce Pearl, who coaches the Tennessee men’s team, guided the U.S. squad.

"[Israel is] a big team. They really hurt us on the offensive boards," Pearl was quoted as saying on the site. "But there’s something special about these [American] kids — great chemistry.

Israel’s team is the same squad that will represent the Jewish state in the qualifiers for the 2012 Olympics, Ha’aretz reported.

In women’s basketball, however, Israel defeated the United States, 81-74, to take the gold medal.

Meanwhile, U.S. Olympian swimmer Jason Lezak increased his Maccabiah gold take to four with two more medals Wednesday in the final day of the swimming competition. Lezak won gold in every event in which he competed. On Wednesday, he set a new Maccabiah record in the 50-meter freestyle of 22.19 seconds.

As of Thursday morning, the last day of Maccabiah competition, Israel was well ahead in the medal standings with 628, including 239 gold, followed by the United States with 255 medals, including 84 gold.

Singing, dancing and fireworks marked the closing ceremony. Thousands of athletes and their guests enjoyed a show featuring last year’s "A Star is Born" winner Boaz Maimuda and Eurovision contestant Shiri Maimon, as well as Eurovision winner Dana International.

President Shimon Peres expressed his pride in the athletes and urged them to return to Israel.

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