Maccabi Hunter Haifa (17-12) will host Ironi Nahariya (15-13) tomorrow (Sunday) at 6pm at RK Arena in the 30th game of the Israeli Winner League. Both teams are battling over their playoff positioning. The Greens want to secure third place and home court advantage, while Nahariya looks to climb to fourth place, where Hapoel Eilat currently sits.
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In their last game, the Greens visited Rishon Lezion and earned a tight 82-78 victory on the road. Due to the injury of center Reggie Buckner, coach Rami Hadar went with center Alex Chubrevich for 34 minutes (Career-high) and he shined with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Maccabi’s newest player, Leroy Hickerson was efficient with 9 points in 15 minutes, and Rene Rougeau, who scored in double figures only once in the last 12 games, began the game with 8 points in the first quarter and added an important 3-pointer on his way to 13 points.
Maccabi’s leading scorer was Gregory Vargas, who is now on 14-game streak scoring in double-figures. Vargas netted 14 points, including a huge buzzer-beater from beyond the half court mark to tie the game at the end of the first quarter. In his last three games, he is 11-of-17 (65%) shooting from the the field. Against Rishon, Maccabi also set a season high with shooting 47.4 percent from downtown.
“It’s good that we are coming into the game after an important road win. We’ve defeated Nahariya twice this season, but they also beat Maccabi Tel Aviv twice, so no one knows what will happen,” Vargas said. “Every game is important before the playoffs, and we have to win this one at home.”
The Greens have met Nahriya twice this season and won both games easily. In those two games, Rene Rougeau was excellent with 18 and 19 points respectively. The MVP of the road game was Will Graves, who scored 24 points (5-of-5 from 3-pt range) and grabbed 9 rebounds, in of his best games this season.
Nahariya also has shown that they can defeat a team twice, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv last week for the second time this season. Nahariya proved that their first win at Ein Sara wasn’t by accident, doubling down with an 86-85 thriller, with the winning shot coming from their new player from the second division, Kwame Vaughn.
Nahariya’s victory is even more impressive considering that their leading point guard, Niv Berkowitz, who leads the league in assists (6.7), is injured. Besides Vaughn, Nahariya also signed Gil Amitay, who spent the season at Hapoel Tel Aviv, where he didn’t play much. Coach Eric Alfasi’s team still has hard games ahead of them until the playoffs, including home games against Herzeliya and Ashdod and road games against Maccabi Rishon and the champs from Jerusalem.