Staying Alive, DiBartolomeo and Graves lift Haifa to force Game 4

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Box Score

With the Greens facing elimination at RK Arena, Maccabi Hunter Haifa did what they needed to do with a convincing 83-66 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Friday afternoon to tighten the series at 1-2.  DiBartolomeo, who came off the bench, was sensational, dropping 21 points on 8-of-13 from the field along with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Will Graves’ 19 points and Leroy Hickerson, who took full advantage of his opportunity to play, scored 15 points in 18 minutes to carry Haifa to victory.  Gregory Vargas added 9 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, while Oz Blayzer posted 7 points and 9 rebounds as the Greens will play Game four in Rishon on Monday.

Rishon was paced by 15 points from Shawn Dawson and Darryl Monroe while Mark Lyons added 11 points.

“Something broke out in the team and we played Maccabi Haifa basketball like we had during most of the season,” coach Rami Hadar said. “I hope that we’ll continue that direction for the next game. We can win on Monday. I enjoyed our normal intensity and that’s the key.”

Vargas stepped up for the Greens with 5 straight points as Haifa raced out to a 7-0 lead. Rishon answered with a 17-4 run to take a 17-11 lead, sparked by Lyons and Wright. Graves and DiBartolomeo drained back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by baskets by Blayzer and Buckner to put Haifa up 21-17. Buckner picked up his third foul after getting hit with a technical, shoving Monroe, which allowed Rishon to tie the contest at 21-21 on four straight free throws. DiBartolomeo swung the momentum back towards Haifa after stealing the ball and finishing with a layup, as Haifa went on a 8-3 run to close the first quarter leading 29-23 over Rishon.

The second quarter was all Haifa as Leroy Hickerson came off the bench with 5 straight points to put Haifa up 34-25. Colman and Graves answered with consecutive 3-pointers as Haifa capped a 16-2 run to go up 42-25 after Colman netted two from the line after Lyons was hit with a technical foul. Hickerson, who scored 9 points in the quarter, got the Green crowd off their feet with an alley-oop to extend the Haifa lead to 48-29. The Greens finished the first half leading 50-33 as the team shot 51.3 percent from the field.

Buckner picked a quick fourth foul to start the third quarter, which sent him back to the bench. After Dibartolomeo netted two from the line, Rishon went on an 8-0 run, capped by a Dawson alley-oop to whittle the Haifa lead down to 52-41. Graves ended the Haifa drought after sinking two from the line. DiBartolomeo was a spark plug for Haifa scoring 6 more points in the frame and hustled for numerous rebounds, but Rishon closed the quarter with 5 straight points as Haifa maintained a 63-52 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Rishon continued to push the tempo as they clawed back to within 7 points at 65-58 after a Hanochi 3-pointer and Monroe netting 1-of-2 from the line. However, that’s as close as they would get as Graves took over, splashing in a dagger 3-pointer which put Haifa up 70-58 with 6:28 left in regulation. After a timeout, Graves added a jumper and another 3-pointer as Haifa pulled away for an 83-66 victory.