Greens drop to 0-2 in series with 89-71 defeat in Rishon

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Maccabi Hunter Haifa couldn’t cool off a surging Maccabi Rishon Lezion team as they dropped to 0-2 in the best of five quarterfinals after a 89-71 defeat at Beit Maccabi in Rishon.  The Greens couldn’t contain Rishon’s shooting as they knocked down 32-of-54 (59.2%) shot attempts.

Haifa had no answer again for Rishon’s guard Mark Lyons who tallied 19 points and 5 assists on 4-of-9 from downtown.  However, it was Rishon’s Shawn Dawson who did the most damage on 21 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.

“We are lacking good shooting in the last two games and I hope it will come in the next game — it’s hard to win that way, ” said coach Rami Hadar. “We are aiming for Friday now and I still believe we can do it. The margin seems large, but the game was close.”

Haifa was paced by center Reggie Buckner who posted a team-high 17 points while snaring 8 caroms. Oz Blayzer tallied 14 points and 6 rebounds while Gregory Vargas notched 16 points and 6 assists.  Haifa committed 17 turnovers on the evening, which could be credited to Rishon’s defensive pressure all evening long.  The Greens shot just 24 percent from three-point land and 56 percent from the line.

“It’s hard to find exactly what happened tonight, but we made small mistakes,” Blayzer said. “They scored from good percentages and they deserve the credit. We should have made it harder for them and we have to come and win on Friday.  We will still give everything and fight, but in my opinion we need to be more concentrated.”

Blayzer and Buckner got the Greens rolling in the first quarter as Haifa built an early 9-3 advantage.  Rishon’s Monroe and Lyons brought them back into the game with a 13-3 run to claim a 15-11 lead.  A Vargas layup and Buckner bucket in the paint tightened the score, but former Haifa captain Avi Bem Chimol nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to keep Rishon up 22-17.   Blayzer would get to the line, connecting on both attempts, but Haifa trailed 23-19 at the end of the first quarter.

The second frame was evenly matched as both teams tallied 18 points each. Rene Rougeau scored Haifa’s first four in the quarter as Haifa went on a 9-0 run to take a 28-23 lead, capped by a Colman 3-pointer.  Rishon answered with a 6-0 run to reclaim a 29-28 advantage after a Tony Younger trey.  After a timeout, Blayzer responded by burying a 3-pointer to give Haifa a 31-29 lead.  The Greens traded leads with the Orange and White until Rishon’s Hanochi netted a 3-pointer as Haifa went into the break trailing 41-37.
The third frame seemed promising for Haifa as Buckner converted on an alley-oop off a beautiful feed from Vargas. However, the momentum swung to Rishon as they went on a 12-2 run as Dawson and Monroe stretched the Haifa deficit to 53-41. After a Monroe dunk which put Haifa down 60-47, the Greens began to turn the tide with a 9-0 run whittling the deficit to 60-56.  However, Lyons, who has been a thorn in Haifa’s side, once again nailed a 3-pointer to halt Haifa as the Greens went into the final frame trailing 63-56. After the buzzer, Rougeau and Dawson got hit with double-technicals after a heated exchange which saw both benches clear.
In the fourth quarter, the Greens got as close as 70-67 after a 3-pointer by Vargas, a Buckner layup, a Blayzer floater and another layup by Buckner.  However, for every Haifa run, it was Lyons who had the answer, as he drove to the bucket to snap Haifa’s surge.  A dagger 3-pointer by Ben Chimol made it 75-67 in favor of Rishon with 3:01 left in the game. Rishon would close out the game on a 19-4 run to down Haifa 89-71, sending Haifa back home with their backs against the wall, trailing 0-2 in the series.