To kick off the third round of the Winner League schedule, Maccabi Hunter Haifa snapped their two-game losing streak Sunday night after pulling away in the last quarter from Hapoel Holon for a 81-67 victory at RK Arena. The final score was not indicative of how tight the game was throughout, as Haifa led by only three points, 61-58, heading into the fourth quarter. Holon whittled the Haifa advantage down to two points, 63-61, early in the fourth frame, but the Greens’ Game MVP John Dibartolomeo sparked a 14-3 run to seal the Haifa win. The Greens improved to 14-9 on the season as they maintained their hold on third-place in the Winner League standings.
“It was clear to me that it was going to be a hard game,” reflected coach Rami Hadar. “Holon has amazing character, and had a nice streak with impressive victories, including against us. I think that this round is going to be very hard, as every team has their goals and will fight for it. I am very happy with this win.”
Five Haifa players scored in double figures, led by DiBartolomeo, who paced the the Greens with a team-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from downtown. Will Graves had a strong showing with 15 points, while Vargas added 14 points, a team-high 6 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. Captain Chanan Colman was very efficient with 13 points on 6-of-9 from the field, while Alex Chubrevich’s presence was felt in the paint on 12 points (6-of-6 from the line) and 4 boards.
Holon’s Will Clyburn kept them in the contest with a game-high 27 points and 9 rebounds, while drawing 8 fouls. Clyburn was Holon’s lone player who scored in double figures for the Purple and Yellow.
“Holon is always a tough physical opponent, and they gave us a good game,” DiBartolomeo said. “When we play good defense, and we get out and run, we play to our tempo, and we play with a little more flow and little more confidence, and that’s what happened tonight.”
“I played a little better today, than last game,” added DiBartolomeo. “We got in a rhythm offensively, and I was able to get some easy baskets and help my confidence early on.”
The game started off as a back-and-forth contest with Haifa taking a 22-18 lead after a DiBartolomeo triple. Holon answered back with Clyburn recording a basket and foul, as the first frame finished knotted at 24-24. The visitors came out of the gate in the second quarter strong, as they jumped out to a 32-26 advantage. However, the Greens responded with a 13-2 run on a Graves 3-pointer, and back-to-back treys from DiBartolomeo to put Haifa up 39-34 midway through the period. The contest heated up as players from both teams got in each others faces, but the referees chose not to hit anyone with technicals. The Greens finished the first half leading Holon, 48-40.
As the third quarter opened, Chubrevich and Ramel Bradley got entangled as each player was hit with a technical. The momentum continued in the Greens’ favor as a Colman buried a 3-pointer to give Haifa a double-digit advantage, 58-48. Once again, Holon’s Clyburn clawed back to shrink the Haifa lead to 61-58 at the end of the third frame.
In the final period, DiBartolomeo stepped up for the Greens with a beautiful left-handed up-and-under drive to the rim, and followed it up with a 3-pointer to give the Greens a 70-63 lead at the 3:11 mark. Vargas put the game out of reach with a dagger 3-pointer as the Haifa defense forced several turnovers down the stretch, with Haifa recording an 81-67 victory.