Maccabi falls to Hapoel Jerusalem in thriller
JERUSALEM – In a rematch of last year’s 2017 Israeli League Final, Maccabi Hunter Haifa was hoping to dethrone the reining champs, Hapoel Jerusalem, at Pais Arena on Thursday night. Despite pushing the Reds for 40 minutes in a thrilling contest, the Greens (4-7) fell short after an 84-79 loss.
“I don’t think there’s a single player to blame,” head coach Offer Rahimi said after the game. “It’s too bad that we gave up those two 3-pointers from [Jerome] Dyson, because we prepared for it. We lost the game on defense, and lack of communication. We didn’t do a good job boxing out for rebounds, and they had too many offensive boards.”
Looking to bounce back from the loss against Ashdod in the State Cup, Maccabi played tough against Jerusalem in one of the Greens’ best games of the season — despite coming up short. Carrying a five point lead, 66-61, over Jerusalem through three quarters, the Greens had the unfortunate luck of the 24-second clock malfunctioning in Pais Arena, causing both teams to have to wait until a new clock shot was installed.
The delay seemed to stymie the Maccabi momentum as Jerusalem burst out of the fourth period on an 8-0 run with a pair of long-range 3-pointers from Dyson as Haifa fell behind 69-68. The Greens didn’t give in as Israeli and Workman scored buckets, and a timely triple by Blayzer reclaimed a 75-73 lead for Maccabi midway through the final period.
Both teams traded leads for the next two minutes with Maccabi’s Zach Graham giving Haifa a 79-78 edge after draining two from the line. Jerusalem’s Ronald Roberts, who led all scorers with 21 points and 12 caroms, pounded the ball inside to put Jerusalem back on top. Graham had a chance to answer, but missed an open look from 3-point range, allowing Jerusalem’s Stratos Perperoglou to extend their lead to 82-79 after sinking two from the foul line. Guni Israeli launched a triple which was half way down, but went in-and-out. The Greens recovered the ball and Workman eventually drew a foul with :11 left in regulation to go the line for two. He missed the first attempt, and purposely missed the second — allowing Graham to corral the rebound. Unfortunately, he was called for a lane violation, which essentially sealed Haifa’s fate.
“I don’t think that we stopped playing after Dyson’s 3-pointers. I am taking responsibility over my last few minutes, I should have done things differently,” Blayzer reflected. “I’m proud of the fight everybody gave tonight.”
Five Maccabi players scored in double-figures, led by Blayzer’s 16 points and 8 rebounds. Zach Graham posted 14 points in his league debut, and Brandon Bowman recorded 12 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Workman (10 rebounds) and Israeli scored 11 points apiece in the loss. Angel Rodriguez added 8 points and 8 assists, and Reggie Buckner chipped in 7 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes.
In addition to Roberts, Jerusalem’s Lior Eliyahu caused fits for the Haifa defenders as he dropped 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting along with 7 rebounds. Dyson added 15 points and Perperoglou finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Maccabi returns to action on Monday, January 8 as they travel to Rishon Lezion for a 19:00 tip-off.