Maccabi Bazan Haifa clinched a Winner League playoff birth tonight, despite a disappointing 90-67 loss to Hapoel Jerusalem at Payis Arena in Jerusalem. The loss of Herzeliya to Holon ensured that Haifa could fare no worse than 8th place as the Greens dropped back to .500 at 16-16 in 6th place. Haifa will host Hapoel Holon in their final regular season game on Sunday, May 10 at 9:05 pm.
“It makes me happy that we are in the playoffs, since we have had a hard season,” Rami Hadar, Maccabi Haifa coach said. “Today we had a bad game. I am taking full responsibility for this, because I feel that the mental perpetration wasn’t good enough. I don’t think it’s because the win on Sunday. We have a very special team with special guys, who gave it their all throughout the season. We met the best team in the league at this stage and they had great game.”
The Greens’ four-game win streak was snapped, due to Jerusalem’s well-balanced attack, shooting 57.1 percent from the field (36-63). Hapoel’s Lior Eliyahu near triple-double on 18 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists, along with the Jerusalem’s ball distribution (33 assists to Haifa’s 21) left Haifa trying to catch up all night.
Only three Maccabi Haifa players scored in double-figures on the evening. Will Graves tallied 17 points (4-of-7 from downtown) and snared 6 rebounds for Haifa, followed by Ike Ofoegbu’s 13 points and 7 rebounds, and Alex Chubrevich’s 11 points and 8 boards. Former Haifa star Donta Smith notched 15 points on 7-of-10 from the field, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, while Tywain Mckee posted 16 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.
“It’s a tough loss, no one wants to lose like that,” Graves said. “We tried to give it all down the stretch before the playoffs and tonight it didn’t work. I am happy that we secured a playoffs spot. Even if we will meet Hapoel Jerusalem again it’s fine . Tonight we made a lot of mistakes but it’s not us and I have a lot of confidence in our team.”
To start the game, the Greens’ Alex Chubrevich couldn’t miss, tallying 7 quick points as Haifa kept it close midway through the first quarter. Ike Ofoegbu was able to score as well, but the Jerusalem defense swarmed him most of the night. Hapoel stretched the lead to 47-34 at the half, and cruised in the second half en route to the 90-67 victory over Haifa.