After two straight losses, Maccabi Haifa was waiting for Oz Blayzer to bust out of his slump, and his 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting and 6 rebounds in tonight’s 84-74 win over last place Kiryat Gat, was just what the doctor ordered.
“The loss on Saturday was in our mindsm and I had two hard days personally, but as they say in basketball, you need to have a short memory, and it was important to win today,” Blayzer said. “I hope that the fans will come on Monday, it’s a very important game against a talented and athletic team. It’s going to be super important and interesting.”
Five Maccabi Haifa players scored in double-figures, with the Greens’ bigmen combining for 24 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks. Reggie Buckner (16 points and 5 rebounds off the bench) and Alex Chubrevich (8 points and 7 rebounds) threw down several highlight reel dunks, including the play of the night, which came in the second quarter on a John DiBartolomeo alley-oop to Buckner who slammed it off the backboard. Alex Chubrevich also got the crowd off their seats with a monster alley-oop slam on a feed from Gregory Vargas. The Greens dished out 22 assists on the evening, led by Vargas who had 9 dimes and added 11 points. Rene Rougeau recorded a sensational game on 12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists in the victory.
Haifa led the entire game, but Kiryat Gat, led by former Haifa center Marco Killingsworth’s 19 points and 10 rebounds and Olando Tucker’s 17 points and 6 boards, never let the Greens run away with it.
“It wasn’t easy, especially because we had tough game on Saturday, but we did the job today and I am happy about that,” coach Rami Hadar said. “In the situation we had, we had to get this win. On Monday, we will face Herzliya and they are very good team. It’s going to be a fight.”
The Greens started with Vargas, Colman, Rougeau, Blayzer and Chubrevich. Kiryat Gat opened with Delaney, Tapiro, Tucker, Nir, and Killingsworth. The Greens jumped out to a 18-8 lead on fast start by Blayzer, however Kiryat Gat cut into the lead at the end of the first quarter to tighten the score at 23-20.
Buckner came off the bench to push Haifa on a 10-0 run to grab a 33-20 lead over Kiryat Gat to begin the second quarter. A Blayzer 3-pointer gave him 15 points in the second quarter, to put Haifa up 40-28. Amir Celestin came in for the final minute and was fouled, making both from the line to give the Greens a 47-31 lead at the half.
The visiting Kiryat Gat began the second half with a wave of momentum, whittling the Haifa lead down to 10 points. Buckets from Delaney and Killingsworth brought the visitors within 53-47, causing coach Hadar to call a timeout. Buckner continued to do work in the paint, converting on a three-point play, and followed up with another three-point play soon after to put Haifa back up 59-48. Rougeau added another two buckets to close the third quarter with Haifa up 63-53 over Kiryat Gat.
Kiryat Gat’s Douglas scored to bring the visitors within 8 points, but Vargas nailed a clutch 3-pointer that rattled in to put Haifa up 68-57 at the 7:30 mark of the fourth quarter. Colman added another important 3-pointer to give Haifa a 77-66 advantage. A steal by Rougeau led to a Vargas fast-break layup to go up 79-66 with 3:06 left in regulation. Vargas’ dish to Colman for a bucket, a Rougeau layup, and a Blayzer free throw sealed Haifa’s 84-74 win, improving to a 9-6 record on the season. The Greens will face Bnei Herzliya (9-6) on Monday at RK Arena in a crucial matchup to determine third, fourth or fifth place.