Maccabi Hunter Haifa (5-7) will host Bnei Herzeliya (8-4) on Sunday at 9:05 p.m. at Romema after finishing up a four-game road trip. Both teams are coming off losses in the State Cup, which ousted them from the tournament.
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On the Road
The Greens spent their last four games (two in the league and two Cup games) outside of Romema, going 3-1 with a win over Kiryat Ata in the Cup eighth-finals, as well as victories over Eilat and Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Winner league. Unfortunately for the Greens, they were eliminated by Ashdod 95-90 last Sunday in the State Cup quarterfinals. Will Graves was the leading scorer for Haifa with 21 points, and in the game against Hapoel Tel Aviv, the forward also registered a solid performance with 18 points and 7 rebounds.
“We are happy to return home after four road games,” Greens’ head coach Offer Rahimi said. “We are about to face a hard mission against a good and well-coached team.”
Gregory Vargas returned to the Greens, landing this week in Israel, and has already had several practices with his teammates. Last season, Vargas played in 33 regular season games for the Greens and averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists (third in the league) in 34.7 minutes (third in the league) per game. He was awarded 2015-16 Israeli League Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 2.4 steals per game (third in the league) on the season.
The team announced today that Alex Perez was released from the team. He averaged 10.7 points and 4.7 assists in 11 Winner League games. In the last league game against Hapoel Tel Aviv, Perez was named MVP after notching 21 points and leading the Greens to an important road win.
In addition to Graves and Perez, Amit Simhon also had a great game against the Reds from Tel Aviv. In 36 minutes on the court, he tallied 20 points (4-for-7 from 3-point range, 6-for-6 from the line) and 7 rebounds. Simhon continues to lead the league in scoring among Israeli players with 15.2 points per game.
“It’s fun to come back home after a few games on the road,” Simhon said. “We want to keep our momentum in the league and make our home fans happy.”
Head to Head
The last game between the teams was the first game of the season for Maccabi. The game occurred right after the team’s return from their annual NBA trip, in which Haifa faced the Sacramento Kings. Despite a good first half, the Greens’ fatigue caught up with them as they eventually lost to Micky Gorka’s team 87-79. Tony Mithcell was the leading scorer in Green with 16 points, and Willy Workman also posted a good game with 11 points (4-for-4 for 2-PT) and 6 rebounds.
For Herzeliya, Taurean Green was on fire with 24 points (5-for-9 from downtown) and Stephen Dennis also registered a solid performance with 16 points and 6 rebounds.
Know your rival
Herzeliya had a successful first round and after their impressive 94-73 victory over Jerusalem in the first game of the second round, they are now in third place in the league. Three players in blue are scoring in double figures; Jeff Adrien leads the team with 14.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per night. The leading Israeli of Herzeliya is Karam Mashour, who is averaging 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, and was named Israeli player of the month of December.
One player who will not suit up for Herzeliya on Sunday is Danny Rubin, who broke his hand and is expected to be out for two months. Rubin, who has Israeli citizenship, is averaging 8.0 points in 27.9 minutes this season. An Israeli player who returned from a long-term injury a month ago is Aviram Zelekovits, who has started to warm up with 5.6 points in 15.8 minutes per game. In the last two league games, he scored 10 points against Ashdod and 13 points against Jerusalem.