Maccabi Hunter Haifa did what they needed to do Tuesday night – win by any means necessary on the road against Rishon. In a back-and-forth contest, the Greens earned a gutsy comeback victory over Rishon to maintain their hold of third place in the Winner league standings.
Gregory Vargas scored a team-high 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field along with 7 dimes. The Venezuelan point guard continues to impress, knocking down a circus shot for the second straight game – this time coming from behind the half court line – to tie the game at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter. Rene Rougeau broke out of his slump with 13 points, and in the absence of the injured Reggie Buckner, center Alex Chubrevich stepped up with 12 points and 7 boards in 34 minutes (season-high). John DiBartolomeo added 10 points, 4 steals and 3 rebounds, while Leroy Hickerson shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field for an efficient 9 point performance (season-high) in 15 minutes. The Captain Chanan Colman scored several important baskets late in the fourth to finish with 9 points on 3-of-4 from the field. Oz Blayzer chipped in 8 points in 18 minutes and Will Graves added 7 points and snared 10-rebounds in the victory. The Greens shot a season-high 47.4 percent from beyond the arc (9-of-19), while holding Rishon to 27 percent from three-point range.
Rishon was paced by Chris Lyon’s 17 points and 9 assists, while Darryl Monroe and Shawn Dawson each contributed 13 points in the loss.
The contest was tight throughout with the Greens’ largest lead of the game, coming on the first 6 points of the game when they went up 6-0 over Rishon. Neither team led by more than 5 points throughout the rest of the contest. With the Greens trailing 70-65 in the final frame, captain Colman swung the momentum the Greens’ way with a 3-pointer and a drive to the rim to knot the score at 70 at the 5:18 mark. The turning point of the game came on 5 straight points from Rougeau on a layup and a clutch 3-pointer respectively to put Haifa up 78-73 with 2:09 left in regulation, capping a 13-3 Haifa run. Rishon’s Palmer answered with a 3-pointer, but Chubrevich and Colman sealed the game at the line as the Greens improved to 17-12 on the season.
“It’s a very important victory. After Sunday, we felt the teams are closing on us and we might lose home advantage on the playoffs, which we worked hard for and still can happen,” coach Rami Hadar said. “We have more hard games. We are an organized team and it takes some time to learn our game, and Leroy is an experienced player who helped us today. In the first two games against Rishon we lost by making our pressure on the ball; today we did things different and took the pace down and I think the game plan worked. The character of Maccabi Haifa can be seen all season long and we have guys with toughness and character.”
“I think we came very focused today, because we knew we have a small margin to make mistakes in the standings,” Hickerson said. “In this situation, we have the control and we need to finish in third place, come in strong to the playoffs and hopefully to the final-four.”
Haifa’s schedule doesn’t get any easier as they host an important game against Nahariya at RK Arena on Sunday, April 24 at 6:00 p.m.