Maccabi Haifa (7-5) will host Hapoel Eilat (5-7) tomorrow (Sunday) at 8:15 pm in Round 13 of the Winner League. Both teams played this week in the State Cup; the Greens earned a big win at Jerusalem, while Eilat fell short to Rishon Lezion and were eliminated from the State Cup.
The Greens have played their last two games on the road, and despite their struggles outside of RK Arena, they won both games in impressive fashion. At Nahariya, Will Graves recorded his best game of the season with 24 points and 9 rebounds, lifting Maccabi to an 80-61 victory. In the second game, against the Israeli League champs at PAIS Arena in Jerusalem, the Greens’ great second half spurred them to a 87-72 win over Hapoel to advance to the State Cup quarterfinals. Four Haifa players scored in double-figures; Gregory Vargas was the MVP with 22 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, and Oz Blayzer added 17 points after struggling to score the past several games. Reggie Buckner was very efficient with 14 points and 3 blocks, and John DiBartolomeo buried 3-of-3 from downtown on his way to 11 points.
“We are going to face a good team, which we know very well and know what they can do,” head coach Rami Hadar said. “On our side, we have to keep and show a high level of execution and intensity throughout the game, in order to get this home win.”
Maccabi Haifa is very familiar with Hapoel Eilat as they have faced one another 10 times this past year. Last season, the teams played 8 games against each other (3 regular season games and 5 playoff games) with Eilat winning 5 games to the Greens’ 3 victories. This season, the teams have faced each other twice with Eilat winning both games, 83-75, in the Winner Cup and 72-69 at Eilat in the first league game.
“This game is very important to us,” Gregory Vargas said. “We cherish our games at home, so we need everybody to come to support Maccabi Haifa and we need to win.”
Hapoel Eilat have kept the same roster since the first round, but made a change to the head coach position, re-hiring Oded Katash, who mutually parted ways with Hapoel Tel Aviv, to replace Arik Shivek. Just like the Greens, Eilat holds a two-game Israel league win streak, winning two home games against Nes Ziona (88-79) and against Rishon (84-72).
Eilat has been without Elishay Kadir for the past month due to a fracture in his hand, and he is questionable for Sunday’s contest against the Greens. Eilat bigman Alade Aminu has been dominant over the last two games; against Rishon he recorded a double-double on 23 points and 10 rebounds (100% from the field and 88% from the line) on his way to 43 VAL in the league game. In the cup loss to Rishon, he was also the best Eilat player, notching 20 points and 9 rebounds. Afik Nissim had a great cup game with 18 points, but he hasn’t found his rhythm in the league thus far, averaging 8.3 points per game.