Maccabi Bazan Haifa made things very interesting on Sunday evening at Romema, surviving a furious comeback for an 82-81 victory over Hapoel Holon, which nearly erased a 22 point lead by the Greens. Maccabi Haifa seemed like they would try and run out the clock with an 82-80 lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game. However, off an inbound play, Holon stole the ball and Ike Ofoegbu was called for an intentional foul, sending Guni Israeli to the line with 15.9 seconds, knowing the visitors would have the ball back after the two foul shots.
The first shot from the line rimmed out, but Israeli sank the second to bring Holon within one point at 82-81. The Greens’ Henning made a tremendous defensive play to force the ball out of bounds and with 1.8 seconds left in regulation, Haifa’s Tomer Bar Even blocked Holon’s Jordan Taylor denying the visitors the chance to pull off the comeback.
Maccabi Haifa finished the regular season with a 17-16 record, tied with four other teams (Holon, Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Tel Aviv), but due to Galil surprising Rishon Lezion, and Eilat topping Nes Ziona, Haifa finished in 5th place in the standings (without home court advantage). The best-of-five quarterfinals picture is set, pitting the #5 Greens against #4 Eilat with the first game taking place at Eilat on Sunday, May 17.
Ike Ofoegbu notched his seventh double-double on 13 points and 10 rebounds along with 5 assists, while Haifa’s guard play filled in beautifully for the injured Moran Roth with Chanan Colman tallying 11 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds, and Tamir Ariely contributing 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The Greens ran into foul trouble late in the game as Rougeau (9 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), Colman and Dagan Yivzori all fouled out of the game.
“I made some mistakes in the first half and we gave up 20 point advantage,” Rami Hadar, Maccabi Haifa head coach said. “We lost all of our guards, besides Tamir Ariely in the last quarter, and Holon took advantage and came back into the game. I am glad we made it to the playoffs, we have a lot of respect to Eilat, which is a great team.”
Yivzori was named MVP of the game on his team-high 14 points, but it was his torrid start that set the tone for Haifa. He tallied 10 quick points to put the Greens up 15-5 midway through the first quarter as Haifa took a 19-13 advantage at the end of one.
The Greens exploded in the second quarter, as Tamir Ariely kept draining threes, while Ofoegbu and Graves help push the lead to a 22-point advantage, but Holon’s Dominic McGuire (18 points, 5 rebounds 4 steals, 4 assists) and Carmel Bauchman whittled the Greens’ lead down to 53-42 at the half.
The third quarter saw Holon ensue on a 19-0 run, dropping Haifa’s lead to only four points, but Henning and Colman sniped three-pointers to set the score back to a 71-58 advantage at the end of the third quarter. Holon would not go quietly as they chipped away at Haifa’s lead, to come within one point at the buzzer. However, thanks to their 16 missed free throw attempts on the game, the Purple and Gold couldn’t capitalize on Haifa’s foul trouble as they were sent back home with the loss.