Maccabi Hunter Haifa (14-9) will travel on Saturday to Nes Ziona (7-16) for a 7:10pm game, broadcast live on Sport5. Haifa’s new acquisition, Leroy Hickerson, arrives today in Israel, but will not be on the active roster for tomorrow’s contest.
Three weeks ago, Haifa scored an improbable 5 points in 5 seconds to force overtime, earning a magical double overtime 104-103 victory. Gregory Vargas (28 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds) and Oz Blayzer (15 points and 6 rebounds) starred for Haifa in the comeback win over Nes Ziona, as it was Blayzer’s 3-pointer and Vargas’ steal and layup that forced the first extra period. However, Alex Chubrevich’s made free throws in the second overtime sealed it for the Greens. Chubrevich, who was dominant against Holon with 12 points in last week’s victory, has scored in double figures 9 times this season. Ironically, the Greens have won only 4 games out of those 9.
“We expect a difficult game at Nes Ziona as we remember how hard we had to work to get a win the last time we played there,” head coach Rami Hadar said.
John DiBartolomeo, who contributed 13 points the last time he faced Nes Ziona, scored 16 points in the victory against Holon (4-of-6 from 3-point land). In the last six games, DiBartolomeo is averaging 45% from 3-point range.
“It’s important we come to this game focused. Nez Ziona is a tough team, especially at home, which we learned last time we were there,” DiBartolomeo said. “We’re expecting this game to be just as tough as the last and hopefully if we play our game we will come back to Haifa with a win.”
Two players who didn’t play well against Holon were Reggie Buckner, who couldn’t find the rim for the first time this season, and Rene Rougeau, who is averaging 7.2 points per game, in Maccabi’s last 7 games.
Offer Berkovitz’ Nes Ziona, can’t get out of the bottom part of the standings, after suffering 4 losses in a row. The team made a significant change in their roster, releasing Damon Simpson, after registering 15.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and re-signed Mitchell Watt, who returned for another stint with the team. Watt is a skilled center, who played with Nes Ziona between 2013-2015, averaging 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game last season. In his first two games this season, he scored 12 and 11 points respectively (against Eilat and Maccabi Tel Aviv).
Besides Watt, there are 3 more players who average double figures for Nes Ziona, Sundiata Gaines (15.1 points and 5.6 rebounds), Yuval Naimi, who is having a great season with 14.4 points and 6.1 assists per game, and Fuquan Edwin, who has slumped his last two games with 7 points, but is averaging 14.3 per game on the season. In the last game against Maccabi Hunter Haifa, Israeli center Igor Nesterenko shined, posting 15 points and 7 rebounds.