Maccabi Haifa appeared to have Tel Aviv on the ropes, right where they wanted them after a Will Graves 3-pointer gave Haifa a 14 point lead, 68-54, early in the fourth quarter of the State Cup quarterfinals. After trailing in the first quarter, Haifa’s momentum lifted the team in the second half as the sold-out crowd at RK Arena were on their feet as it looked as though the semifinals were in reach. However, the Greens collapsed, as Maccabi Tel Aviv ensued on an improbable 19-2 run at the end of the game, capped by Taylor Rochestie’s dagger 3-pointer that left Haifa feeling like it was déjà vu. With the game tied at 70-70 with less .4 seconds left, Rochestie stepped-back with a hand in his face, and nailed the crushing shot to eliminate Maccabi Haifa from the State Cup with a 73-70 defeat.
“There is no such thing as deserve in basketball,” coach Rami Hadar said. “There is the one who won and the one who lost, and we should have won today. I think that we lost the game from the offense, we missed a few open shots at the end. We are a strong team with character and we will move forward.”
Rene Rougeau scored a team-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, snared 7 rebounds and recorded 5 steals, and Reggie Buckner posted 14 points and pulled 7 boards in the loss. Tel Aviv was led by Devin Smith’s 18 points on 4-of-7 from downtown, and Trevor Mbakwe registered a double-double on 12 points and 14 rebounds. The Greens were done in by their poor three-point shooting (22 percent) and missed opportunities at the line, converting only 50 percent (9-of-18) from the charity stripe. Tel Aviv shot 43 percent from beyond the arc and controlled the glass, outrebounding Haifa, 45-34.
“We just got complacent, basically, once up 14 (points), it was going back and forth, both teams didn’t make a basket for a couple minutes, and we didn’t take advantage of that like we should have,” Rougeau said. “Without a doubt, when you’re at home, you have to close out games, especially against the top teams. As frustrating as it is, all we can do is this as motivation to add fuel to the fire.”
The Greens started with Vargas, Colman, Rougeau, Graves and Chubrevich. Haifa struggled to find their rhythm as Maccabi Tel Aviv jumped out to a 10-4 advantage. Rougeau recovered a loose ball and scored a putback, converting on the extra point, and a dish from Vargas to Chubrevich for the layup brought Haifa within 13-11 midway through the quarter. Tel Aviv’s Devin Smith burned Haifa, burying three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Tel Aviv held a 21-14 lead at the end of the first.
In the second quarter, Maccabi Haifa picked up the tempo on both sides of the court. Rougeau and Buckner scored in the paint, a steal from Vargas, which led to a layup, and a three-pointer from John DiBartolomeo brought Haifa within 24-22. DiBartolomeo continued to stroke from the outside and a Chanan Colman layup gave Haifa their first lead of the game at 34-33. The Greens traded leads with the Yellows of Tel Aviv for the remainder of the half, but it was was Tel Aviv’s Smith, who gave the visitors a 37-36 edge at the half.
Tel Aviv’s Mbakwe scored first to start the third quarter, but the Greens’ pick-and-roll action between Vargas and Buckner, led to some monster alley-oop dunks by Reggie, who gave Haifa a 43-41 advantage at the 6:28 mark. Graves and DiBartolomeo splashed in back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch Haifa’s lead to 49-43. Tel Aviv’s Pnini answered with a 3-pointer, but Rougeau caught fire, scoring Haifa’s last six points to close the quarter leading 58-51.
Rougeau converted on a three-point play, and three-pointers by Vargas and Will Graves stretched the Greens’ lead to 68-54 at the 7:02 mark. That’s when it all went south for the Northern Green team, as the Haifa offense collapsed. Devin Smith drained his fourth 3-pointer of the game, and dunks by Mbakwe and Randle brought Tel Aviv withing 69-68. Buckner was fouled with 57.6 seconds left in regulation, making one of two attempts from the line to put Haifa up 70-68. Mbakwe drained two free throws at the other end to knot the score at 70-70 with 40.6 seconds. The Greens relied too heavily on trying to score from outside as nothing fell for them, as the Yellows recovered the rebound and Rochestie finished it off with the 3-pointer at .4 seconds. Will Graves heaved up a desperation three-pointer after a timeout, which looked good for a split second, but rimmed out as Haifa fell 73-70.