The quarterfinals series tips-off on Monday at 7 p.m. at Holon, the second game of the series is on Saturday, May 27 at 9:00 p.m. at Romema.
Maccabi Hunter Haifa finished the regular season with a 16-17 record, securing the final eighth spot of the playoffs. The Greens will face Hapoel Holon, which finished in first place with a 22-11 record.
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Better Late Than Never
Offer Rahimi’s Greens secured their playoff spot in the last game of the regular season after winning in big fashion over Hapoel Tel Aviv 95-79 at Romema. Several Haifa players shined with four Greens scoring in double figures. Amit Simhon (14) and Oz Blayzer (13) dropped in close to their season averages, while Gregory Vargas flourished with 12 assists (tied his career-high) only with 19 points. Vargas won the assists leader title with an average of 6.8 assists per game, becoming the first Green player to do so since Corey Gaines during the 2002-03 season.
Kevinn Pinkney saved the best for last, recording an impressive double-double on 23 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. He set new career-high marks with a 35 VAL as well as rebounds, and was named MVP of Round 33.
“Our goal is to prove we deserve to be here and we’re here to win,” Pinkney said. “Holon was the best team at the end of the regular season but a new season starts now.”
Fourth Time’s the Charm?
The Greens and the Purples met three times during the regular season (twice at Romema and once at Holon) with Holon winning all three games — making them the only team the Greens did not record a win against this season. Will Graves was the top player for Maccabi in two of those games with 18.5 points per game, but he will not be a factor in this series due to a season-ending wrist injury.
Among the Green players who will play, Gregory Vargas averaged 15.5 points against Holon this season, but was limited to only 3 assists per game against Hapoel. John DiBartolomeo also has fared well against Holon, averaging 12.0 points and 4.5 assists in two games against the Purples.
In the last six games, Willy Workman looks great and has been given more playing time by coach Offer Rahimi. Over that span, Workman is averaging 8.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 22 minutes per game.
“We are not satisfied on just making the playoffs, we are aiming higher,” Rahimi said. “Holon is a tough team, so we will have to give it our all, and execute our game plan, in order to come back home with a win.”
Finished first in the Final game
Dan Shamir’s Hapoel Holon team also waited until the final game of the regular season in order secure first place in the Winner League. Holon played Gilboa/Galil at Gan Ner, winning 93-76 to finish in first place over Eilat. The MVP of the game was Shlomi Harrush who scored 23 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in 27 minutes. The only time the guard notched more than 20 points this season was in Round 6 at home against the Greens from the Carmel, when he posted season-high 24 points and added 7 rebounds.
In addition to Harrush, three players in Purple closed the regular season with double-digits averages, James Bell recorded 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, Tu Holloway scored 15.3 points and dished out 3.7 assists per game and Darion Atkins averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per night.
Keys to the Series
If the Greens are going to get through Holon, they’ll have to figure out how to contain Atkins and Bell. In three games against Haifa, Atkins has dominated the Greens, averaging 19.7 points (74% from 2-PT) and 9.3 rebounds. The Greens held Bell in check in the first two games (5 points and 0 points respectively), however in the third game of the season series, he exploded for 28 points and 10 rebounds.