Greens close out second round with loss to Jerusalem
Maccabi Hunter Haifa couldn’t keep pace with the defending champions Hapoel Jerusalem on Monday night, falling 94-82 at Romema Arena. Despite a fast start by Maccabi, Hapoel Jerusalem’s steady offense — which scored 25 points in each of the first three quarters — couldn’t be matched by Maccabi over the length of the contest. The Greens (7-15) dropped to 11th place in the standings, while the Reds (14-8) solidified third place at the conclusion of the Winner League second round.
The Greens shot a season-high 62.9 percent (22-of-35) from two-point range and connected on 9-of-24 (37.5 percent) attempts from downtown. The issue wasn’t the Maccabi offense — the defense couldn’t make stops. The Reds nearly matched Haifa’s output from close range, shooting 61.7 percent (29-of-47) and 31.5 percent (6-of-19) from three-point range.
“Our defense was not good enough, there is no doubt about that,” said coach Offer Rahimi after the game. “We took difficult shots, and the transition defense wasn’t good enough. We missed Reggie [Buckner] under the baskets, maybe I should have given Daniel [Koperberg] more credit.”
Trevor Gaskins led Maccabi with a game-high 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting, followed by Brandon Bowman, who earned the start in place of an injured Reggie Buckner, dropping 19 points on 8-of-11 from the field along with 9 rebounds. Zach Graham added 17 points on 7-of-10 from the field, while Dagan Yivzori chipped in 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Captain Oz Blayzer couldn’t follow up his MVP performance last week, scoring only 2 points in 29 minutes.
“It seemed that we were in the game because we scored on good percentages, but we gave them too many easy points and let them feel too comfortable,” Blayzer noted. “It’s true that in the last quarter we improved on the offensive side, but tonight we weren’t aggressive enough on defense — including myself.”
Hapoel’s Stratos Perperoglou led all Jerusalem scorers with 20 points (8-of-14 from the field) while Jerome Dyson and Bar Timor contributed 18 points apiece. Ronald Roberts added 14 points and 7 rebounds and Tarence Kinsey recorded 12 points.
The Greens opened the game with Gaskins, Huber, Graham, Blayzer and Bowman. Maccabi shot the three-ball well to start, connecting on 5-of-6 attempts. Graham’s 10 points, along with a triple from Yivzori, put Haifa up 30-25 over the Reds at the end of the first frame.
Yivzori opened the second quarter as he closed the previous one, with a beautiful high-arching basket, but a 3-pointer by Perperoglou and a dunk by Eliyahu swayed the momentum in the Reds favor. Koperberg gave Haifa a four-point lead, but Perperoglou — who was involved in almost every offense attack — together with Kinsey, boosted the Reds to a 45-38 advantage. Yivzori broke up a 9-1 Jerusalem run, and Workman added a point from the line. Eliyahu found Ram Elias-Poura for a basket, which put Haifa in a 47-41 hole. Yivzori buried the first triple for Haifa after seven missed shots, but Kinsey immediately answered him on the other end of the floor, as Maccabi went into the break, trailing 50-44.
The Reds extended their lead to 75-61 through three quarters, scoring on almost every on every offensive play towards the end of the period.
Haifa opened the final frame with a basket by Graham, along with a big shot by Gaskins trimmed the deficit to 75-65. Graham’s basket and a three-pointer by Bowman brought Haifa within 80-75 midway through the final period. Dyson curbed the Greens’ momentum scoring Jerusalem’s next five points. Gaskins drew a foul, making both from the line to bring Haifa within seven points, 87-80, at the 1:59 mark. The Greens’ couldn’t mount another comeback attempt from there as the Reds pulled away in the final two minutes.