Maccabi Hunter Haifa (9-11) will travel to Maccabi Rishon Lezion (10-10) on Sunday for a 9:05 p.m. tip-off in the 21st game of the Winner League. Rishon Lezion comes into the game after relieving head coach Arik Shivek of his duties. Assistant coach, Shmulik Brenner, was named head coach until the end of the season.
Will Graves on fire
The Greens traveled to Yad Eliyahu last Monday and nearly surprised the Yellows, but lost another close game, 97-96, in a thriller. Will Graves had his best game in a Maccabi uniform, dropping 34 points (6-of-8 from downtown), while grabbing 8 rebounds and totaling a 36 VAL. Graves set career-highs in points, VAL and made 3-pointers.
The forward loves to play against Rishon Lezion. Last season, in the best-of-five quarterfinals series against the defending champs, Graves posted impressive averages on 15.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in 33.8 minutes per game. Also, in the first league game between the teams this season, Graves notched 15 points in 28 minutes.
“After our tight loss last week, this game [against Rishon] is very important for us in order to regain our positive momentum and push ourselves up in the standings,” Graves said before the game at Rishon. “We need as much Green fan support in the stands to give us that extra edge.”
One goes up, one comes down
Kevinn Pinkney has registered 5 games in a Green uniform, and the veteran has shown improvement, offensively, in each game. After scoring a point in his first game, he scored 5, 8 and 9 points respectively, and against Maccabi Tel Aviv, last Monday, he tallied 11 points in 22 minutes. On the other hand, Amit Simhon struggled against Maccabi Tel Aviv (3 points in 24 minutes), snapping an eight game streak of scoring in double figures. Simhon (15.0 PPG) also lost his hold of first place as the league’s top Israeli scorer, as Rishon’s Shawn Dawson grabbed top spot with 15.1 PPG.
The Greens’ point guard, Gregory Vargas, who despite missing two chances to win the game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, nearly tallied a triple-double on 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
“We are going to face a tough team at their home, who needs the win just like we do,” Head coach Offer Rahimi said. “We need to bring our offensive performance from last game, but we’ll need to upgrade our aggressiveness on defense.”
Rishon’s tough week
Rishon Lezion closed out a disastrous week. After replacing Arik Shivek with his assistant coach, Shmulik Brenner, Rishon also announced that their skilled swingman, Patrick Richard (12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game), will be out for at least a month due to an injury, and will not play against the Greens. Another player who will not play against Haifa is Nimrod Levy (3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game), who signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Without Richard, Shawn Dawson will be Rishon’s go-to-guy. In the last 5 games, Dawson is averaging an impressive 19.4 points, 5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 steals in 31.6 minutes per game.
The last time the two teams met was in the first round at Romema. With a depleted Israeli roster (without DiBartolomeo and Workman), the Greens lost a tight game, 73-68. Only two players scored in double figures for Rishon, Maalik Wayns who starred with 25 points (in his second game in the league) and Richard who scored 11.