Ike Ofoegbu earned his stripes tonight with a heroic performance on 23 points and 12 rebounds in the second game of the quarterfinals to boost Haifa to a hard fought 76-68 victory over Hapoel Eilat and even the series at 1-1. The Greens improved their impressive record at Romema Arena to 16-8 all-time in the playoffs. However, one sour note for the Greens was the injury to Will Graves, who went down with a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. He will be evaluated after receiving an MRI to determine the severity of the injury
Despite his MVP performance, Ofoegbu was quick to credit his teammates on the victory.
“It was a team effort,” Ofoegbu said after the game. “When Will went down with the injury, we all stepped up.”
A strong start by Moran Roth and Dagan Yivzori got the Greens going with a 26-17 lead at the end of the first period. Eilat returned the favor, thanks Afik Nissim, Adrian Uter and Kevin Palmer in the second quarter to whittle the score down to one point at the half, 44-43, in favor of the Greens.
Haifa and Eilat traded baskets in the second half with the game remaining tight as Eilat pulled ahead with a 63-62 lead in the fourth quarter. The turning point of the game occurred with a 7-0 Haifa run, sparked by Ike Ofoegbu, both in the paint and beyond the arc, sandwiched with a steal by Yivzori and dish to Rougeau to pull Haifa ahead 69-63 with 4:30 left in regulation. Ofoegbu iced the game after converting on a three-point play to give the Greens a 74-66 advantage over Eilat with 1:14 left on the clock.
“Eilat is a great team, there is nothing new about that,” said Maccabi Haifa coach Rami Hadar. “Will is on his way to the hospital and I hope he will be okay. Even without him, we will need to continue to be aggressive and we will be okay.”
Rene Rougeau broke out with with all-around performance on 14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks. Moran Roth poured in 20 points on 7-of-14 from the field, and Dagan Yivzori dished out 6 assists and chipped in 11 points.