A second-half barrage from the Green’s trio of Blayzer, Graves, and Vargas propels Haifa to an 88-71 victory over the defending champs Rishon Lezion
In what was a tightly contested first half, Maccabi Hunter Haifa’s captain Oz Blayzer exploded in the final quarter — sealing an 88-71 victory over Rishon Lezion on Monday night at Romema. Blayzer finished the night with an impressive double-double performance on 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field (including 9 straight points in the final frame) and a season-high 13 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks and 3 assists.
“We played aggressive, and as a team today,” said Blayzer after the game. “We attacked the rim, and on top of that, we made our 3-pointers.”
Blayzer’s presence inside was felt — connecting on 69 percent of his shot attempts (9-of-13) in the paint against Rishon.
“I am not concentrated only on outside shots, I am working with the coaches on my post up game,” added Blayzer. “I am trying to work inside in order to be more versatile. It worked well tonight, and I hope it will continue.”
Will Graves continued his hot shooting, tallying 20 points on 4-of-9 from downtown while snaring 6 caroms. The leading ball distributor in the league, Gregory Vargas notched his third double-double on the season with 10 assists (only 1 turnover) to go along with 15 points and 4 rebounds. John DiBartolomeo also chipped in 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in the Greens’ fourth straight home victory.
“We showed character today and we fought back hard,” Graves said. “We have a lot of trust in one another and in our team. It’s always great to play hard in-front of our home fans who supports us.”
The Greens dug themselves in an early hole, as Rishon raced out to a 9-0 start. Simhon ended Rishon’s fast start with a trey, and Haifa ensued on a 10-0 flurry to knot the game at 15-15. The score would finish tied at the end of the first quarter (17-17) and at the half (38-38).
DiBartolomeo opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Blayzer followed up with a beautiful post up move as the Greens extended their lead to seven after a feed from Vargas to Kevinn Pinkney on the inside (52-45). Rishon erased Haifa’s advantage with a 7-0 burst to tie the score at 52 at the 3:36 mark of the third quarter. However, Graves responded by splashing in two from beyond the arc and Vargas drained a jumper before the buzzer as Haifa widened their lead to 65-55 at the end of the third period.
In the final quarter, Rishon whittled the Greens’ advantage down to 67-61, forcing Haifa coach Offer Rahimi to call a timeout to regroup.
That’s exactly what the Greens did.
Blayzer and Vargas took over the game as Vargas made a highlight reel dish to Blayzer who soared through the air to threw down the alley-oop. Blayzer scored 9 consecutive points as he pushed Haifa’s lead to 20 points, 82-62. The Greens emptied their bench as both Netanel Artzi and Daniel Koperberg joined in on the fun with emphatic dunks as Haifa finished the game with a 16 points victory, 88-71.
Haifa’s next game is on the road at Gilboa/Galil on Sunday, April 9.