Maccabi Bazan Haifa’s season opener pitted the Greens against Hapoel Jerusalem in a rematch of last year’s semifinals, in which Haifa eliminated Jerusalem 3-1. The story line before the game was former Maccabi Haifa star Donta Smith’s return to Romema, along with former head coach Danny Franco, who is now the head coach of Jerusalem, along with former Haifa forward Uri Kokia and now Jerusalem assistant coach.
The Greens had no answer tonight for Hapoel guard Bracey Wright, who burned Haifa for 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field along with 5 assists. Haifa kept the contest close in the first half, trailing 41-36 to Jerusalem at the break, with a strong inside presence from Jeff Allen and Alex Chubrevich. In the second half, Haifa couldn’t get their offensive rhythm going, scoring 22 points the entire second leg. Allen (7 rebounds) , Chubrevich (6 rebounds) and Hector Hernandez (7 rebounds) each ended up with 10 points on the evening. Poor long distance shooting hindered the Greens as they shot 12% (3-of-25) from three-point land and couldn’t control the glass being outrebounded 41-33.
The Greens starting five against Hapoel Jerusalem were Demontez Stitt, Dagan Yivzori, Rene Rougeau, Jeff Allen, and Alex Chubrevich. Haifa’s pressure defense led to offense with a Jeff Allen steal and layup and a Hector Hernandez steal led to a fast break three-pointer to take a 16-12 lead over Jerusalem. Tomer Bar Even hit an open Hernandez, who nailed his second three-pointer to go up 21-16. However, Jerusalem finished the quarter on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 21-21.
Two conesecutive three pointers by Jerusalem gave them a 29-22 advantage over the Greens. A turnaround jumper by Chubrevich and a jumper from Allen saw Haifa creep back within 33-28 in favor of Jerusalem. Jeff Allen scored four consecutive points to bring Haifa within 36-32 with just under two minutes. Jerusalem pushed the tempo towards the end of the period but Haifa’s Tomer Bar-Even made a buzzer-beater layup to remain close at 41-36.
Off an offensive rebound, Brody Angley made a three-pointer, but Jerusalem responded with a 15-0 run to take a commanding 60-45 lead in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw Haifa make a small run, but Jerusalem’s Tony Gaffney netted a three-pointer from the corner as the Greens eventually fell 76-58. Maccabi Haifa plays again this Saturday against Ashdod, before they embark on a 4-team NBA tour against the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and Toronto Raptors.