Maccabi Hunter Haifa (15-9) earned a 3-0 sweep of the season-series over Ironi Nes Ziona with a 73-63 road victory on Saturday night.
Will Graves produced a game-high 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting while snaring 4 rebounds. Four other Haifa players scored in double-figures including 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals by shooting guard John DiBartolomeo.
“It was a tough, physical game, but that was what we were expecting,” DiBartolomeo said. “I’m happy that we were able to fight back and come out with a win.”
The Greens defense, which has been the key to their success all season long, was on display in full force tonight. Haifa forced 21 turnovers and notched 16 steals, led by a game-high 5 steals by Oz Blayzer, who added 11 points and 5 rebounds. Haifa floor leader Gregory Vargas contributed 10 points, 4 rebounds and a game-high 7 assists in the victory.
Nes Ziona was paced by Sundiata Gaines who matched Graves with 16 points, but turned the ball over 4 times on the evening.
“I think we were sharper on offense and it lowered their points on fast break opportunities,” coach Rami Hadar said. “We are a tough team and we don’t break. I give a lot of respect to Nes Ziona, which played aggressively. Our goal is to finish 3-4 and to achieve home-court advantage.”
Graves totaled 10 points in the first, giving Haifa a 24-16 lead as the Greens drew 10 fouls at the end of the opening period. In the second frame, Nes Ziona clawed all the way back to claim a 34-30 advantage over the Greens midway through the quarter. DiBartolomeo pulled up and knocked down two clutch 3-pointers, along with buckets from Chubrevich and Graves as the Greens finished with a 42-36 lead at the half.
The Greens quickly extended their advantage to double-digits, 48-38, in the third quarter on points from Vargas, an alley-oop to Buckner, who finished with 10 points on the evening, and two made free-throw attempts by DiBartolomeo. The Greens capped a 14-3 run on a beautiful drive to the rim by Vargas to give Haifa a 60-41 lead. Nes Ziona answered with two 3-pointers, but the Greens maintained a comfortable lead 64-51 at the end of the third quarter. Rougeau came off the bench in the final period to score 4 straight points to put Haifa up 68-53. Nes Ziona was never able to recover as the Greens sealed their fifth road victory of the season.
Maccabi Hunter Haifa return to RK Arena in a marquee matchup as they host defending champions Hapoel Jerusalem on Monday, March 28th at 9:05 p.m.