Maccabi Haifa secured sole possession of third place in the Winner League after pulling out a 80-73 overtime victory in a defensive battle against Bnei Herzliya. After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv at the buzzer, the Greens were burned once again at the buzzer, but managed to regroup in the extra period to earn their 10th win of the season. With Maccabi Haifa up 65-62 and 6.5 seconds left in regulation, Herzliya’s Drew Crawford knocked down a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game in overtime at 65-65.
“It was tough and disappointing game, from an offensive standpoint,” said coach Rami Hadar. “About the last play, whenever we make a mistake, the responsibility is mine, even if the players didn’t do what I said, I will always have their back. It’s a very important victory.”
Reggie Buckner controlled the paint, droppig 18 points and 8 rebounds off the bench, while captain Chanan Colman posted 18 points on 5-of-8 made field goals along with 4 assists. Rene Rougeau registered his second double-double on the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds along with 4 steals and 2 blocks in the victory. Haifa won depsite struggles from Oz Blayzer, who was held scoreless tonight after dropping a
season-high 18 points last game, and Will Graves came up big with 4 points in the overtime after scoring no points in regulation. Gregory Vargas added 6 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists, but committed 9 turnovers (season-high) as Haifa’s offensive went into droughts throughout the evening.
Herzliya was paced by guard Stephen Dennis who taliled 15 points, 5 rebounds and turned the ball over 5 times in the loss. Crawford, who netted the buzzer-beater at the end of regulation, finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the loss.
“Last game we were up against them [Herzliya] in the first half, and they came out and dominated us in the second half, so we didn’t want that to happen today,” Colman said.
With both teams coming into Sunday night’s game at RK Arena with identical records at 9-6, both teams seemed to feel the pressure. Chanan Colman got the Greens going, scoring 9 quick points on 3-of-3 from downtown in the first quarter, but Herzliya grabbed a 19-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Buckner came off the bench and made his presence felt with a reverse alley-oop dunk to knot the score at 21-21 at the 8:06 mark. Herzliya went ahead 28-23, but Buckner was couldn’t be contained down low as he scored 11 consecutive points to bring Haifa within 31-30 with 4:41 left in the half. A Rougeau bucket and a 3-pointer by John DiBartolomeo put Haifa ahead 35-34. The Greens would finish the first half leading 38-36 after a jumper from Rougeau right before the buzzer.
Both teams struggled to find the basket in the third quarter. Haifa mustered only 8 points to Herzliya’s 9 points with the Greens maintaining a one-point edge, 46-45, at the close of the period.
Herzeliya pulled ahead in the fourth quarter on a Karam Mashour 3-pointer which put the visitors up 52-46 at the 7:20 mark. Chubrevich ended nearly a 9 minute scoring drought from Haifa, along with a bucket from DiBartolomeo and a 3-pointer by Colman whittled the deficit to 57-56 at the 2:38 mark. Vargas stole the ball immediately and finished with a layup, and the Greens defense registered another steal on the next possession, this time by Rougeau who was fouled, making both from the line to put Haifa up 60-57 with 1:57 left on the clock. Herzliya’s Singleton responded with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 60-60, but DiBartolomeo fed a cutting Buckner who finished with a layup with 31 seconds left to put Haifa up 62-60. DiBartolomeo stole the ball and Vargas was fouled, making one of two from the charity trip to go up 63-60. Dennis was fouled on the end of the floor with 7.7 seconds, making both free throw attempts to bring Herzliya withing 63-62. Colman was fouled immediately after a timeout, netting both from the line as Haifa led 65-63 with 6.5 seconds left in regulation. Crawford dribbled past half court and heaved a three-pointer that went in to send the game into overtime at 65-65.
In the overtime, Haifa outscored Herzliya 15-8, as Rougeau took over with the help of Graves, who had been held scoreless in regulation, to seal an 80-73 win, and now hold third place in the standings behind Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Greens face Jerusalem on the road in on Sunday January 24 at Pais Arena.
“I’m pretty sure they [Jerusalem] are going to be ready for us after the cup win after we beat them. We now have won two games in a row and we’re going to try and keep it going.”