Instant Classic, Greens earn 2OT comeback victory in Nes Ziona

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Box Score

Maccabi Hunter Haifa pulled out a thrilling double-overtime classic 104-103 to earn their first-ever win at Nes Ziona (after 5 losses at Lev Hamoshava).  With 11 seconds left on the clock and Maccabi Hunter Haifa down 5 points, 81-76, the Greens managed a miraculous comeback thanks to late game heroics by Oz Blayzer’s 3-pointer and game MVP Gregory Vargas’ steal and layup to knot the score at 81-81. It took two overtime periods for the Greens’ Alex Chubrevich to win the game at the free throw line and hold on for the victory.

“It was a crazy game,” Vargas said. “I had a good game and it’s good to win after two weeks off. We made history today, since Maccabi never won here in this gym.”

“In basketball, it’s never over until it’s over and today we were on the right side of it,” Blayzer said.  “We are not breaking, and we never give up. Rami told us that we are in such great shape that fatigue is not a factor and we come each game focused. We are in a good period and from here we are looking forward.”

The Greens were paced by Vargas’ incredible performance on 28 points on 12-of-22 from the field, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. Blayzer came on strong late in the game to finish with 15 points and 6 rebounds, while Chubrevich posted 14 points and 5 boards. John DiBartolomeo added 13 points on 3-of-7 from downtown and Colman dropped 3-of-6 from beyond the arc to finish with 11 points. Reggie Buckner chipped in 8 points and 8 rebounds (2 blocks), and Rene Rougeau was all over the court with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Will Graves chipped in 7 points and 3 rebounds to round out the Greens stat line. Haifa controlled the glass, outrebounding Nes Ziona 51-40 on the evening.

Nes Ziona shot 48 percent (13-27) from three-point land, yet still couldn’t manage to hold off the Haifa comeback. Sundiata Gaines tallied a team-high 20 points for Nes Ziona, but shot 1-of-9 from the two. Nesteranko and Simpson each chipped in 15 points in the loss.

“It looked finished, but with those kind of guys you can take down the moon,” said coach Rami Hadar. “There’s something which happens once in a career maybe, when such unique people, who never give up come together . We have a lot of confidence and it affects us during the money time.”

To start the game, Graves splashed a three-pointer to get Maccabi Hunter Haifa rolling as they jumped out to a 10-5 advantage. Gregory Vargas looked sharp out of the gate, tallying 8 points and 3 assists. The Greens finished the first frame leading 29-23 after Reggie Buckner scored 4 points and Blayzer drained jumper at the buzzer.

Vargas continued his hot shooting with another 7 points in the second quarter, but Nes Ziona’s 3-point shooting gave them their first lead of the game at 36-35. Haifa reclaimed a 42-39 lead at the break thanks to Vargas’ 15 points and 6 assists, and Chubrevich’s 10 points in the first stanza.

Nes Ziona came out in the second half with a 9-0 run to completely change the momentum of the game to take a 48-44 lead. DiBartolomeo curbed the Nes Ziona charge with a 3-pointer and a bucket to tighten the score at 54-52 in favor of Nes Ziona. The Greens’ offense sputtered for the most of the quarter, but a bucket by Vargas and offensive rebound by DiBartolomeo led to a Colman 3-pointer to make it 61-57 in favor of Nes Ziona at the end of the third quarter.

Gaines opened the fourth quarter with an improbable 3-pointer and Nesterenko increased the gap to 71-59. However, Vargas refused to give in as he scored several baskets to whittle the deficit to 71-63. With Haifa trailing by 10 points, 75-65, the Greens clawed all the way back as Colman splashed in a triple to bring Haifa within 77-75. Buckner had a chance to tie the score, but his layup was short, and Gaines was fouled on the other end, making the score 79-75. Nes Ziona would score two more points, as Haifa trailed 81-76 with 11 seconds in regulation. Nes Ziona thought they had the game in the bag, but a quick 3-pointer by Blayzer and Vargas’ steal and layup forced overtime.

Nes Ziona’s Edwin and Haifa’s DiBartolomeo exchanged three-pointers at the opening of the overtime, but Skerver and Karplelesz extended the Nes Ziona advantage to 89-84. Blayzer chipped away at the lead with a triple and two beautiful blocks by Buckner led to a Vargas bucket to swing Haifa back on top 90-89 with 1:40 left in the first overtime. Edwin and Gaines missed from outside, and Vargas missed as well, but Buckner scored in the paint to put Haifa up 93-91. Skerver drove to the basket and missed, but Nesterenko cleared the rebound and tied the game at 93-93. Vargas had a chance to win at the buzzer but his layup rimmed out.

The Greens opened the second overtime on a 7-0 run on a Blayzer three-pointer, followed by an offensive rebound by DiBartolomeo and layup, which put the Greens up, 100-93. Nes Ziona, however, was relentless as they answered with their own 7-0 run to tie the game at 100-100. Graves broke the tie with a post up layup, but Nes Ziona’s Naimi netted a three-pointer to put the home team up 103-102. Alex Chubrevich was fouled with 56.9 seconds left in the game, making one of two from the line to tie the score at 103-103. Chubrevich was fouled again with 24.3 seconds left on the clock as he netted one of two from the charity stripe to put Haifa up 104-103. Nes Ziona had a chance to win it, but their shot came up short as time expired.