Maccabi Hunter Haifa (17-13) travel tomorrow (Monday) to play against last-place Maccabi Kiryat Gat (20-10) at 7:40 p.m. in Ashkelon. Maccabi wants to take a step closer towards securing third or fourth place, which ensures home court advantage in the playoff quarterfinals. Kiryat Gat needs a win in order to fight relegation to stay in the Winner league at the end of the season. Reggie Buckner, who missed the last two games due to injury, is probable to play tomorrow.
The Greens from the Carmel have been inconsistent with just 2 wins in their last 6 games. Last Sunday, they hosted Nahariya which went to overtime. Unfortunately for Haifa, they have not fared well in overtime as they dropped to 2-4 in OT (lead the league in OT games) after an 82-81 loss to Nahariya.
“Down the stretch, every game is a big game. We have to come focused with intensity and ready to knock out Kiryat Gat, which we know are fighting relegation,” Greens forward Will Graves said.
Center Reggie Buckner returns to action for Rami Hadar after missing two games. In his absence, Alex Chubrevich stepped up by contributing 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 35 minutes in those two games. Rene Rougeau also woke up, tallying double figures in the last two games, posting 10 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes (ran into foul problem early) against Nahariya.
Maccabi has defeated Kiryat Gat twice this season; 86-81 at Ashkelon in their first meeting, and at RK Arena, the Greens won 84-74. In those two games, both Captain Chanan Colman and Oz Blayzer averaged 15 points per game.
Kiryat Gat needs a win very badly, if they want to survive in the league. The Blues are currently in last place, tied with Nes Ziona and one game behind Holon. Recently the team from the South lost their dominant player, Alando Tucker (18.7 points per game and 5.7 rebounds in 33.8 minutes) due to a season-ending injury. In the last game, Kiryat Gat’s Deshawn Sims shined in his absence with 21 points.
Last week, Nati Cohen’s players faced Maccabi Tel Aviv at Yad Eliyahu and almost completed an impressive comeback, as they tied the game after they were down by 19 points. However, they eventually lost 92-84 to the Yellows. Like Sims, guard Paul Delaney thrived, registering a double-double on 21 points and 10 assists. Greens’ former center, Marco Killingsworth, notched 19 points and 7 rebounds in the loss. Kiryat Gat’s Israelis struggled, just like they have all season long, as their leading Israeli is Stu Douglass (7.1 points) with the rest of the Israelis averaging a combined 24.7 points per game.