The Greens’ season comes down to Monday after falling to Hapoel Jerusalem 69-63 on the road
Maccabi Hunter Haifa lost their fourth straight game as the Greens were defeated by Hapoel Jerusalem in a low-scoring affair, 69-63, on Thursday night at Pais Arena in the nation’s capital. The Greens still control their own destiny with making the playoffs, despite the setback against Jerusalem. With Galil’s buzzer beater victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Hapoel Tel Aviv’s win over Ashdod, Haifa has several ways of making the playoffs. If Maccabi wins their contest on Monday over Hapoel Tel Aviv, then they clinch the eighth seed in the playoffs. If Haifa loses by less than 20 points to Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Galil loses to Hapoel Holon, then the Greens will secure a playoff spot.
Despite trailing throughout most of the contest, Maccabi managed to claim a three-point edge, 51-48, over Jerusalem early in the fourth quarter after a John DiBartolomeo bucket which capped a 9-2 rally. The lead was short-lived as Jerusalem went on a 10-0 run to take a 58-51 edge. Vargas knocked down a desperation 3-pointer off the backboard to trim the score to 58-54 at the 3:06 mark. Simhon and Pinkney tried to keep Haifa in it, knocking down a 3-pointer and converting on a three-point play, respectively, as the Greens whittled the deficit down to 61-59 with 1:23 on the clock. However, the Greens would get no closer as Hapoel pulled out a 69-63 win.
Haifa committed 17 turnovers on the evening to only 12 assists — an unfortunate trend which has been occurring the last several games. Haifa struggled from the field, connecting on 40.6 percent of their shot attempts and were outrebounded 38-to-32 on the boards.
“We need to win the last game and make it to the playoffs,” said head coach Offer Rahimi after the game. “We worked hard all season and we have to come focused because there is going to be a lot of pressure on both sides. I hope we will be able to do it and show aggressiveness in order to win at Romema. I think we were good on defense, we played aggressive and I felt that we also played right on offense in most parts. At the end, our misses and one good shot from their side changed the momentum.”
Amit Simhon paced the Greens with 13 points on 5-of-9 from the field to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers. DiBartolomeo posted 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, while big man Kevinn Pinkney was the third Haifa player to score in double figures with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Gregory Vargas finished with 9 points, 5 assists and 4 turnovers. Captain Oz Blayzer chipped in 6 points and 7 boards and Orlando Mendez-Valdez recorded 6 points and 3 dimes.
Jerusalem was led by Bar Timor and Richard Howell (11 rebounds) who scored 12 points apiece. Jerome Dyson tallied 11 points and 4 assists and Tarence Kinsey chipped in 9 points and 5 boards, while Curtis Jerrells and Lior Eliyahu added 8 points apiece and Yotam Halperin scored 7 points in the Hapoel victory.
Hapoel raced out to a 19-9 lead over Maccabi, but the Greens closed the first frame on a 7-1 run to tighten the score at 22-19 in favor of Jerusalem. In the second quarter, Haifa claimed their first lead of the contest, 21-20, on a Mendez-Valdez bucket and a DiBartolomeo 3-pointer. Hapoel exploded with a 9-0 run on three consecutive treys (two from Jerrells and one from Timor) as Hapoel took a 35-30 lead going into the half. Haifa struggled in the first half from downtown, connecting on 3-of-12 attempts from three-point land.
In the third frame, Hapoel stretched their lead to 9 points, before the Greens ensued on an 11-2 run thanks to a three-point play from Pinkney and two from long range by Simhon and DiBartolomeo to knot the game at 41-41. Hapoel reclaimed a lead after a Timor bucket and Dyson gave Hapoel the lead at the end of the third quarter, 48-47, after scoring a quick bucket with :14 seconds before the buzzer.