Maccabi Hunter Haifa missed a golden opportunity to solidify their hold of third place in standings, falling flat in overtime, 88-79, to Bnei Herzliya on Saturday night at RK Arena. Despite a strong 3-point shooting night from Haifa (42% on 13-of-31), Herzliya shot even better from beyond the arc (56% on 15-of-27), and dominated the glass, outrebounding Haifa 49-34.
The Greens erased a 12-point deficit in the second half and reclaimed 3-point lead, 77-74, with 1:22 left in the game, thanks to five straight points from Gregory Vargas on a desperation 3-pointer, followed by a layup. Reggie Buckner had a chance to add to the lead after drawing a foul, but missed both attempts from the line, allowing Drew Crawford to bury a 3-pointer to tie the game at 77-77 and evenutally send it into overtime. In the extra frame, Haifa couldn’t muster any offense as they were outscored 11-2, dropping only their fourth game of the season at RK Arena.
“This is the game – it has it’s momentum and the last run wasn’t ours,” coach Rami Hadar said. “Like they came back, we came back twice. It’s a significant loss and I hope that we will recover from it on Tuesday. I think that we didn’t guard their outside shooting well and that’s where we lost the game. Its history now, so we will have to come to Rishon Lezion and take the game now.”
“We gave them too many open shots from three and they made us pay for it, so all the respect to Herzliya, they are a tough team,” said Rene Rougeau. “I am just trying to help as possible, we had a good team effort today and we are looking forward to Tuesday. We have to be better defensively against Rishon in order to win.”
The Greens were paced by point guard Gregory Vargas’ game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field along with 5 assists and 4 steals. Will Graves added 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, while John DiBartolomeo tallied 10 points, 5 assists and 4 steals in the loss.
Six Herzliya players scored in double-figures for Herzliya in a well-balanced attack, led by former Haifa prospect Yiftach Ziv, who burned the Greens with a career-high 17 points along with 5 assists and 5 steals. Drew Crawford shot 5-of-6 from three-point range for 15 points, snaring 11 rebounds and 4 assists, while Stephen Dennis also tallied 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Karam Mashour registered 14 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes, while big man Hamady N’Diaye posted 12 points and 6 boards.
The Greens started the game off on the right foot, jumping out to a 17-2 lead to take a 21-12 lead at the end of the first frame. Chubrevich’s 6 points and Rene Rougeau returned to action with 5 points to help lift Haifa in the beginning of the contest. However, the second quarter was a complete role reversal as Herzliya outscored Haifa 26-15 to take a 38-36 edge over Haifa at the break.
In the third frame, Herzliya’s James Singleton splashed in 3-pointer to put the Blues up by their largest lead of the game, 55-43, midway through the period. DiBartolomeo answered with 8 straight points on two 3-pointers and a layup to whittle the deficit down to 55-51 in favor of Herzliya. Vargas capped the third quarter with a trey to bring Haifa within two points at 58-56.
Ziv opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, which was answered on the other end of the floor by Reggie Buckner who converted on a 3-point play after drawing a foul in the paint. Herzliya’s Crawford dropped consecutive 3-pointers to widen Herzliya’s lead to 72-64. Haifa rallied with a 8-0 run on 3-pointers from Colman and Graves, sandwiched with a bank shot from DiBartolomeo, to knot the game at 72-72. Herzliya again quickly took a two-point edge on a beautiful feed by Ziv. Vargas netted an improbable off-balance 3-pointer and DiBartolomeo stole the ball, which led to a Vargas layup, giving Haifa a 77-74 advantage with 1:22 left in regulation.
The turning point of the game came after Buckner’s two missed free-throws, which allowed Crawford to once again hit a dagger 3-pointer, which sent the game into overtime after Stephen Dennis missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. The Greens never recovered. Despite Graves scoring the first points of the overtime period on a fade away jumper, Herzliya ensued on a 11-0 run to finish the game with a 88-79 victory as Haifa dropped to 16-12 on the season.