Maccabi Hunter Haifa played their sixth overtime game this season on Sunday evening at RK Arena in another dramatic contest, which saw the Greens fall just short 82-81 to Nahariya. The Greens – now 2-4 in overtime contests – have played the most overtime games in the league, and could never land the knockout blow to Nahariya. Despite another strong shooting night for Haifa from three-point range (43%), they committed 20 turnovers, which hurt Haifa time and again. The Greens’ loss dropped them to 17-13 on the season, denying Haifa a sweep of the series against Nahariya.
“I don’t like to lose,” coach Rami Hadar stated. “I think that we struggled with their guards line-up, we failed there and that’s what lost the game for us. We are not winning enough games, and recently we are not winning enough games at home. We have to win against Kiryat Gat next week, and we have hard games ahead of us.”
Nahariya’s Oded Brandwein played the unlikely villain with 14 points, burying several dagger three-pointers which set up Gilbert Brown (19 points & 8 rebounds) to make the game-winning free throw to down the Greens in overtime. Newcomer Kwame Vaughn and Cameron Clarke posed tough matchups for Haifa as they posted 15 and 14 points respectively.
Haifa’s center Alex Chubrevich stepped up again in the absence of the injured Buckner, tallying 19 points and snaring 8 rebounds. John DiBartolomeo, who netted 14 points and pulled down 4 boards, scored two clutch free throws with 1.6 seconds left in regulation to extend the game into the extra period. Point guard Gregory Vargas, who ran into early foul trouble, lifted Haifa on his back late in the game, finishing with 15 points and 8 assists. Vargas’ hot shooting from downtown continued, netting 3-of-5 from 3-point range, but shot just 1-of-10 from two-point land. Captain Chanan Colman drained several clutch 3-pointers, finishing the night 10 points and 7 rebounds, while Rene Rougeau was Haifa’s fifth player to score in double-figures with 10 points, but scored all of his points in the first quarter.
The game was tight throughout, with neither team taking a lead larger than 7 points. Rougeau’s hot start gave the Greens a small 21-17 edge over Nahariya at the end of the first quarter.
Vargas, who picked up two early fouls, was kept on the bench, resulting in a slower pace offensively in the second quarter. A Hickerson block led to a DiBartolomeo 3-pointer at the other end of the floor to give Haifa their largest lead of the contest at 24-17 to begin the second frame. Chubrevich threw down a posterizing dunk to put Haifa up 26-19, and continued to get to the line later in the second to reach the 10-point mark by the half. Nahariya kept within striking difference, claiming a 32-30 lead on 2 free throws from Brown with 2:55 left in the first half. However, Haifa finished the quarter on a 7-0 run on a beautiful drive from DiBartolomeo, a 3-pointer from Colman and free throws from Chubrevich to take a 37-32 lead going into the break.
In the third quarter, Vargas returned to the floor and made an impact from long-distance with two 3-pointers to go up 45-38 midway through the period. With the Greens up 55-48 after two free throws from Blayzer, Nahariya’s Kwame Vaughn nailed a 3-pointer to tighten the score 55-51 in favor of Haifa at the end of the quarter.
The Vaughn shot swung the momentum towards Nahariya as he scored the first shot in the fourth quarter. Vaughn nailed another 3-pointer to put Nahariya up 60-57, before Colman answered with a three to knot the score at 60-60 with 7 minutes left in regulation. Nahariya controlled the glass while Vaughn continued with his hot shooting hand as he scored a layup to put Nahariya up 67-62 at the 3:27 mark. Vargas responded with a drive to the rim, and after a Nahariya turnover, Chubrevich followed with a tip-in off a Vargas miss to bring the Greens within 67-66 to Nahariya with 2:07 left in regulation. The last two minutes were full of drama as Brandwein scored 6 points and a 3-point play by Brown looked to give Nahariya the upper-hand, but was countered by a huge 3-pointer by Will Graves and a steal by Vargas and layup by Colman to tie the game at 73 with 23 seconds remaining. With Haifa down 75-73, DiBartolomeo grabbed an offensive rebound off a Vargas miss and was fouled with 1.3 seconds remaining. DiBartolomeo made both shots from the line to tie the game at 75, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Nahariya’s Brandwein scored first, but DiBartolomeo followed answered with a 3-pointer to reclaim a 78-77 lead. Vaughn tied the game at 78 with one of two from the line. Will Graves splashed in a 3-pointer, but Brandwein answered with a huge 3-pointer for Nahariya to tie the game at 81 at the 1:03 mark. Gilbert Brown was fouled, making one of two from the line, which ended up being the game-winner. The Greens had several chances to try to go for the win, but Graves’ shot attempt was blocked by Clark from behind. Haifa’s last chance came after a travel call on Nahariya, but Vargas’ desperation shot was no good as the Greens failed to secure their hold of third place in the standings.