Maccabi Hunter Haifa (16-12) head to Maccabi Rishon Lezion (13-15) tonight at 9:05 pm. The Greens are looking to recover from the loss to Bnei Herzeliya, and hold on to their third place spot in the standings. Rishon Lezion have been slumping (5 losses out of the last 6 games), and responded with a significant change, relieving coach Sharon Druker for veteran coach Arik Shivek until the end of next season.
The Greens hosted Herzeliya last Saturday in a game that could have created distance between them and fourth place, but fell short 88-79 in overtime at RK Arena. Maccabi leads the league in overtime games, having gone to overtime 5 times this season. Haifa is 2-3 on the season in OT, with the two wins coming against Herzeliya and Nes Ziona, and three losses coming against Jerusalem twice and the most recently against Herzeliya.
The leading scorer for Maccabi is Venezuelan point guard, Gregory Vargas, who buried 5 shots from downtown on his way to 23 points against Herezeliya. He has scored in double-figures in his last 12 games, posting averages of 17.1 points, 6.9 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 steals. Vargas leads the league with 2.6 steals and is second with 6.5 assists.
“We are heading to a hard road game against an athletic and talented team. It’s very important for us to come back with a win and recover from the loss to Herzeliya,” Oz Blayzer said before the game. “We will have to bring all of our aggressiveness and play as a team, which has won us many some games this season thus far.”
Will Graves has also been able to find the rim of late, scoring in double figures in five of the last six games. In that time span, Graves has registered 14.2 points and 6.0 rebounds. On the other side, Captain Colman had his fourth game in a row in which he did not eclipse double digits. Colman has averaged only 7 points in the last four games, compared to 11.8 points in the previous four.
Maccabi Haifa players met Arik Shivek in his first game in a new team (Hapoel Eilat) last season as well. The Greens remember this game well, as they lost at home, 87-74.
Rishon’s Darryl Monroe is leading the team with 17.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, while Mark Lyons is right behind him with 15.7 points and 5.1 assists. In the last two games against Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv, Lyons was off, scoring only 6 and 5 points respectively.
The top Israeli of Rishon is Shawn Dawson, who has scored in double figures since the 9th week of the league (besides one game against Jerusalem, where he scored 5 points). Dawson has had a great season thus far, posting 15.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 31.4 minutes.