With a 19 point halftime lead on the road, Maccabi Hunter Haifa was forced to sweat out a furious comeback attempt by Hapoel Eilat in a tight 86-81 victory on Monday in the 8th round of the BSL. Maccabi’s Angel Rodriguez sank four crucial free throws in the final 25 seconds to earn the Greens’ third victory of the season. Rodriguez, who scored a team-high 28 points and a game-high 5 steals, excelled at the line — connecting on 12/15 attempts (80%).
Willy Workman added 15 points and 3 steals, including a crucial and-one layup to put Haifa up 76-71 over Eilat with 3:19 left in regulation. Brandon Bowman tallied 11 points and Reggie Buckner burned his former team with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and a career-high 4 assists. Oz Blayzer, Dagan Yivzori and Guni Israeli added 6 points apiece.
Maccabi handled the ball well — dishing out 18 assists to only 9 turnovers. Defensively, Maccabi forced 18 Eilat turnovers.
The Greens wrapped up their three-game road trip with a 2-1 record. Haifa earned their second straight victory in Eilat — the first time that has happened since 2012.
Newly named Hapoel Eilat head coach Sharon Drucker suffered a loss in his debut. Eilat was paced by Mike Rosario who recorded 27 points including 6/7 from 3-point range, and former Haifa forward Amit Simhon caught fire late to finish with 21 points on 5/8 from downtown.
Both teams had trouble scoring in the first five minutes with the score tied at 4-4. Buckner got the Greens going by pounding the ball inside, and Bowman came off the bench and made his presence felt by knocking down a 3-pointer as Haifa finished the first frame with a 17-9 lead.
A Rosario 3-pointer propelled Eilat on a mini-run as they trimmed the Greens lead down to 19-17. Maccabi answered with a 13-2 run on two 3-pointers by Workman. Maccabi stretched the lead back to double digits as Rodriguez scored four straight to put Haifa up 33-21. The Greens closed the first half with a 44-25 advantage.
Rodriguez drained a 3-pointer to put Haifa up 20 points, 47-27, but Eilat managed to cut Haifa’s lead down to 12 points with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Yivzori, Blayzer and Rodriguez helped Haifa hold a 14 point lead, 65-51, at the end of the third frame.
Eilat opened the final frame with an 8-2 run to cut Haifa’s advantage down to 67-59. Eilat got as close as 73-71, but great ball movement by the Greens allowed Workman to convert on an and-one on a backdoor cut to the basket. Despite prolonging the game with several missed free throws, Rodriguez was able to convert on 5-of-6 from the line in the final minute to seal the victory.
NEXT UP: Maccabi returns home to Romema to face Bnei Herzeliya on Wednesday, December 13.