Game MVP Willy Workman starred with 19 points and 11 rebounds, John DiBartolomeo stayed hot with 19 points on the road
Maccabi Hunter Haifa exhaled a big sigh of relief after Tu Holloway’s 3-point attempt to win the game rimmed out — stymying a furious 15-2 rally by Holon in the last 2:41 of the fourth quarter as Haifa held on for a 78-77 victory at Holon’s Toto Arena to go up 2-1 in the quarterfinals series. The Greens are on the verge of making history — no 8th seed team has ever won a playoff series against the top seed in the history of the Israeli basketball league. The Greens return to Haifa to try and close out the series in Game 4 on Sunday at 9:00 p.m. To purchase tickets to the game, click here.
Willy Workman came off the bench and put on a heroic performance to carry Haifa to a victory, registering a double-double on 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, while snaring 11 rebounds and 2 steals in 28 minutes. John DiBartolomeo continued his hot-shooting, tallying 19 points on 4-of-5 from downtown along with 6 assists. The Green shot 50 percent (9-for-18) as a team from beyond the arc with the help of Oz Blayzer who found his stroke from long distance, connecting on 3-of-4 from 3-point range for 15 points. Kevinn Pinkney played great pick-and-roll basketball, dropping 13 points and 4 caroms. Gregory Vargas dished out a team-high 9 assists and chipped in 8 points.
“The playoffs in Israel are very short, three weeks pretty much from start to finish after a 9 to 9.5 month season, so when it comes to playoff time, instead of feeling the pressure, you just have to enjoy the moment,” Workman reflected on his MVP performance after the game.
Tu Holloway was Holon’s leading scorer for the third straight game, tallying 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting and a game-high 12 assists. Big man Darion Atkins finished the evening with 15 points and 7 rebounds, but was held in check by Haifa’s defense in the second half of the contest. Shlomi Harrush added 14 points and 8 rebounds, while James Bell chipped in 11 points and 7 rebounds in a losing effort. Haifa’s defense limited Holon’s shooting to 28 percent from beyond the arc, while holding guard Jordan Taylor scoreless in 16 minutes.
To start the fourth quarter, the Greens were cruising — capping a 17-0 run to go up 59-48 after Rashaun Freeman corralled an offensive rebound and made a putback. Haifa appeared to have the game in hand when they extended their lead to 14 points, 74-60, with 2:41 after an Oz Blayzer bucket. That’s when things began to spiral downward for the Greens. Vargas turned the ball over twice, allowing Holon to trim the lead down to 10 points with 1:20 left in regulation.
After a called timeout by the Greens, Workman scored a bucket to put Haifa back up by 12 points, but Holon answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Guni Israeli and Holloway to whittle the lead down to 76-70 with 33.7 on the clock. Orlando Mendez-Valdez, who was held scoreless in the contest, missed two critical free throws, allowing Holloway to race down the other end of the court and burry another 3-pointer to cut Haifa’s lead down to 76-73 with 14.6 seconds left in the game. Holon brought the Haifa lead to one point after Israeli netted two from the line, but DiBartolomeo saved the game for Haifa by drawing a foul on the other end of the floor and made both shots to put Haifa up 78-75 with 7.4 seconds left. Haifa fouled Holloway, who sank both shots from the foul line, to put Holon yet again within one point, 78-77, with 3.7 seconds left in the game. The Greens seemed to panic as Holon’s Bell deflected the ball off an inbound pass to Vargas, forcing another Haifa turnover over which allowed Holloway one last chance to try and win it. Fortunately for Haifa, Holloway’s magic touch ran out as his 3-point attempt to win the game was no good as the Greens held on for the 78-77 victory.
“We played smart on offense for many minutes, but in the other minutes we paid for the mistakes,” said coach Offer after the game. “The defense came together with great heart and soul and I am proud to be the coach of such a great group of guys.”
Holon made the first statement on Wednesday, taking a nine-point edge, 24-15, at the end of the first frame.
Haifa swayed the momentum of the game by completely dominated the second quarter — outscoring Holon 25-9 in the period to open a seven-point lead, 40-33, going into the break.
It took Haifa nearly four minutes to score its first points in the second half, allowing Holon to reclaim a lead. A 15-2 run by Holon was capped by Holloway’s three-pointer midway through the quarter to take a 48-42 advantage. However, the Greens regained a 54-48 lead after DiBartolomeo caught fire with two 3-pointers and a layup by Blayzer finished the third frame on a 12-0 Haifa run.