“Welcome to Israel!” team manager Ido Kozikaro joked to Reggie Buckner after Maccabi Haifa’s dominant 74-57 win over Nes Ziona at RK Arena on Monday night, extending their home winning streak to 12 games. It was all smiles for Buckner, who starred for Haifa in his breakout game of the season with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks. Haifa’s defense shutdown Nes Ziona, holding them to 28 percent shooting from the field.
“I feel great,” Buckner said after the game. “I played off the team energy. My teammates always kept giving me confidence and tonight was the night for me.”
John DiBartolomeo was a spark plug off the bench with 13 points on 3-of-6 from downtown, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Maccabi Haifa made a change to their starting lineup as guard Yiftach Ziv earned his first start of the season along with Will Graves. The move paid off early as Ziv buried a 3-pointer to start an 8-0 run to put the Greens ahead 12-10 over Nes Ziona. Rene Rougeau also started well, tallying 6 early points as Nes Ziona and Haifa finished the first quarter knotted at 16-16.
In the second quarter, Reggie Buckner put Haifa back on top after drawing a foul. DiBartolomeo sparked the Greens with his aggressiveness on both sides of the floor, notching 11 points (three 3-pointers) and 4 assists in the period lifting Haifa to a 39-27 lead at the half.
Nes Ziona came out strong to begin the third quarter as they scored 6 consecutive points to whittle the Haifa lead down to 39-33. However, the Greens stymied Nes Ziona as a Colman three-pointer helped Haifa ensue on a 11-3 run to put the Greens up 50-36 at the 2:48 mark. Reggie Buckner, who played his best game of the season, grabbed an offensive rebound and made a putback to put the Greens up 53-39 with just over a minute left in the third. Will Graves splashed in a three-pointer right before the buzzer to give Hafia a 57-40 lead.
Buckner continued his success in the paint as he had his way down low with another bucket to put Haifa up 62-41 with just over 7 minutes. The highlight of the fourth came on a Vargas alley-oop to Rougeau who finished with an emphatic jam as Haifa closed out the show with a 74-57 win.
The Greens finish up their two-game home stand this Friday afternoon at 2:00 pm against the defending champions Hapoel Jerusalem.
“We’re going to be pumped for it,” said Buckner. “This is what we’ve been waiting for. We’re going to give it our all and may the best man win.”