After closing out the first round with a home win over Maccabi Ashdod, Maccabi Haifa is eager to open the next round with their second road victory of the season as they face Ironi Nahariya on Saturday, December 19 at 6:10 pm. Nahariya has an identical record to Maccabi Haifa at 6-5, but Haifa’s season opening victory over tehm, secured the Greens fifth place while Nahariya is just behind in sixth place in the standings.
In the final game of the first round, the Greens defeated Zvika Sherf’s Maccabi Ashdod team, 78-74 at RK Arena. Captain Chanan Colman registered his best game of the season, and was named to Winner League’s starting line-up of week after notching 17 points on 100% shooting from the field, while adding 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Colman is leading the league in three-point shooting percentage (54.4%) and his 2-point shooting percentage is also impressive (70.6%).
The Greens routed Nahariya 84-63 in the season opener at RK Arena with Rene Rougeau leading the way with 18 points, John DiBartolomeo added 14 points, and floor leader Gregory Vargas registered a double-double on 10 points and 10 assists.
“Nahariya has performed well since we met them in the first round, and I expect this game to be hard,” coach Rami Hadar said. “We will have to be accurate from both sides of the court in order to pass this obstacle and open the second round with a victory.”
The Greens’ center Reggie Buckner has continuously improved throughout the season. In Buckner’s last four games, he is averaging 12.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 18.5 minutes per game, compared to the first seven games, where averaged 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds.
“Both teams have had the opportunity to see one another,” Buckner said. “In order for us to come back with a win against Nahariya, our aggressiveness and execution will have to exceed theirs.”
Eric Alfasi’s Nahariya has come a long way since they met the Greens in the first game of the season, but their inconsistency at home has been puzzling. They surprised Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv, but suffered losses to Rishon and Kiryat Gat. Center Richard Howell is Nahariya’s most efficient player on the team with averages of 13.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. In the first game at RK Arena, he snared a Winner League season-high 20 rebounds against Haifa.
Forward Cameron Clark (14.5 points and 5.8 rebounds) and guard Michael Umeh (13.1 points) round out the imports in Alfasi’s starting five. The starting lineup usually includes Niv Berkowitz, who after a disappointing season at Eilat, has found his place in Nahariya, leading the league in assists (6.5) and also contributes 7.8 points per game. Their second best Israeli has been Eran Asenti for most of the season, but guards Oded Brandwein as well as Anthony Fisher have stepped up as well.