Vargas’ 30 points was not enough as Jerusalem held off Haifa to Take Title
Maccabi Hunter Haifa’s Cinderella run came up just short of the finish line in Thursday night’s championship contest against Hapoel Jerusalem. Although the Greens chipped away at a double digit deficit from a third quarter burst by the Reds, Haifa wasn’t able get over the hump in the final frame as Jerusalem won 83-76 to earn the 2017 Winner League title.
Despite trailing by 13 points at the end of the third quarter, the Greens never gave in — rallying in the final frame to get within 5 points.
But in the end, the Reds’ trio of Jerome Dyson, Curtis Jerrells and Tarence Kinsey proved too much for Haifa. Dyson dropped 30 points on 10-of-18 from the field (including 6-of-9 from downtown), 6 rebounds and 5 assists, Jerrells posted 21 points and 5 assists and Kinsey recorded 19 points. Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire chipped in 6 points and 7 rebounds in 14 minutes to earn his first championship in his illustrious professional career.
On Thursday night, Gregory Vargas carried the Greens throughout the contest — matching Dyson with a game-high 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field while dishing out a game-high 6 assists. Orlando Mendez-Valdez dropped 14 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, and big man Kevinn Pinkney notched 13 points. Prior to the game, John Dibartolomeo was named League MVP, but Jerusalem managed to limit him to 6 points in 27 minutes.
The game was back and forth in the first half. Thanks to a quick start by Jerrells and Dyson, Jerusalem raced out to a 8-2 lead. Pinkney scored in the paint and Vargas scored six straight to even the score at 10-10. DiBartolomeo came off the bench and gave the Greens a lead with a layup as Haifa held a one point edge 14-13 at the end of the first frame.
In the second quarter, Mendez-Valdez caught fire, burying two 3-pointers and drew a foul on a 3-point attempt as he tallied 8 quick points to give Haifa a 22-16 lead. Jerusalem rallied which was sparked by Kinsey, Howell and a 3-pointer by Dyson to knot the contest at 26-26. Vargas and Jerrells matched shot-for-shot from 3-point range, but the Greens managed to take a five point advantage after Workman converted on a 3-point play to take a 38-33 lead. The Reds answered with an 8-0 run on a clutch 3-pointer by Jerrells and Dyson added another triple as Jerusalem reclaimed a 41-38 lead. Mendez-Valdez capped the third frame with a 3-pointer to knot the game at 41-41 at the half.
Dyson took over in the third frame, scoring 12 points on three-triples and a bucket as Jerusalem extended their lead to 12 points at 57-45 midway through the quarter. Jerrells added another triple and Kinsey drained one more from long range to close the quarter with a 65-52 advantage.
Every Maccabi player left everything on the floor in the final quarter — especially Vargas who scored 13 points in the final frame to keep Haifa within striking distance. Pinkney corralled an offensive rebound and scored inside to bring Haifa within 8 points, but Dyson hit a dagger trey to put Jerusalem up 75-64 with 3:08 left in regulation. Vargas nailed a 3-pointer and after Haifa made a stop on defense, he drew a foul — making both from the free throw line to bring Haifa within 78-72 with 37.8 to go. The Greens ran out of time as Jerusalem celebrated with their championship in franchise history.