Maccabi Hunter Haifa (15-9) will host defending champions Hapoel Jerusalem (18-6) tomorrow (Monday) at 9:05 pm at RK Arena. It will be the fourth time the teams have met this season (twice in the league and once in the State Cup). Both teams have won their respective road games; Maccabi twice at Pais Arena and Hapoel once at RK Arena. Newcomer Leroy Hickerson is expected to make his debut on Monday against Jerusalem
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The Greens come into this game after two wins in a row; a victory over Holon at home, and a 73-63 win at Nes Ziona, highlighted by the Greens’ league-leading defense. Five Haifa players scored in double figures, led by Will Graves’ 16 points, while DiBartolomeo added 13 and Vargas (7 assists) and Buckner contributed 10 each. Oz Blayzer registered his second game this season with over a 20 VAL (22) with a impressive stats line of 11 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals.
“Games against Jerusalem are always challenging and competitive, and I am sure that this game will be no different,” head Coach Rami Hadar said. “We will need maximum determination and accuracy in order to force our game style to win the game.”
For the first time this season, the Greens’ iron defense, held their opponents under 70 points for two straight games. Holon scored 67 at RK Arena and Nes Ziona scored only 63 at their gym.
“With 9 games left, every game from here will be a battle on the road the championship. I hope to see RK Arena with all the Green as we take on first place Jerusalem on Monday night,” Greens forward Rene Rougeau said.
Jerusalem would like to forget the two last games between the teams, as Maccabi won both held in the Capital (in the league and in the state cup). Two players who shined in the last league game were Chanan Colman, who scored 19 points and dished out 5 assists, and center Reggie Buckner, who registered a double-double on 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Watch the highlights from the last game between the teams:
On the Jerusalem side, there have two recent major changes in the roster; center Eli Holman, who played for Eilat during the 2012-13 season, signed with the team, and Israeli national team center, D’or Fisher, was released. Holman has been solid in his first two games, averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds. Last week, the Reds met second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv, defeating them for the third time this season, 73-66. Yotam Halperin put on a show with 23 points (5-of-7 from beyond the arc), and Lior Eliyahu and E.J Roland scored 10 points each.
The Greens’ former star, Donta Smith, has relished playing against Haifa (averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in the two league games this season), however, he has posted modest stats, 7.8 points and 3.2 rebounds, over the last five games. Roland, on the other hand, is on fire with 15.8 points in the last four games for Jerusalem. Coach Danny Franco’s team are in first place in the standings, and after the win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, are 2 games up on them in the standings.