Maccabi Haifa will take on Hapoel Jerusalem tomorrow at 9:00 pm at PAIS Arena in Jerusalem in the Round of 16 in the State Cup. The teams played one another recently in Haifa in a dramatic Israeli league game, which finished in an 86-84 overtime defeat to Jerusalem.
Last season, the Greens advanced to the semifinals of the State Cup, and they face a tough task ahead of them against the defending Israeli league champs. Just 20 days ago against Jerusalem, Will Graves led all Haifa scorers, tallying double figures for the first time this season with 16 points. In the last league game against Nahariya, Graves stepped up, setting a career-record in points scored in Israel with 24 points and 9 rebounds.
“Our best game this season, so far, was against Hapoel Jerusalem, and yet we fell short,” coach Rami Hadar said. “It’s a very hard raffle for us and a tough game. We will have to step up in order to win and continue playing in the State Cup.”
In the impressive 80-61 road win over Nahariya, the Greens were able to get past their road struggles, posting 80 points (previously averaged 71.0 points in road games) and the team defense held Nahariya to only 61 points. Rene Rougeau was stellar with a season-high 19 points and matched his season high with 5 assists. John DiBartolomeo added 11 points and 4 assists for Haifa, after averaging 3.3 points in his last three games.
“It’s the hardest team we could get in my opinion, but we are coming to each game in order to win it, and obviously in the Cup, where there isn’t an option to make mistakes,” center Alex Chubrevich said.
The last time the teams met in the Cup was February 5, 2013, with the Greens pummeling Jerusalem 80-61 in the semifinals. The Greens’ top performers were Donta Smith, who tallied 20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals, and James Thomas, who posted a double-double on 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Jerusalem comes into this game after advancing to the next round of the Eurocup, but they suffered a 80-76 loss to Ashdod in the Israeli league, snapping their 5 game winning streak. Former Haifa great Donta Smith, who had his best game this season against the Greens (20 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals), played poorly against Ashdod, scoring only 3 points, shooting 1-of-8 from the field. Jerusalem guard Bar Timor, who had great start to the season, is averaging only 3 points and 4.3 assists per game over his last 3 games.
On the other hand, guard E J Rowland recorded an excellent game against Ashdod, tallying 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 34 minutes. Tony Gaffney is posting nearly the exact same stats as last season, as he plays 21.7 minutes per game, scores 8.3 points (just like last season) and snares 5.3 rebounds (comparing 5.2 rebounds last season). Both Haifa and Jerusalem automatically were promoted to the round of 16, because of their achievements in the Cup as Jerusalem advanced to the Finals last season, but lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv.