FINAL: Rishon Lezion 79, Maccabi Hunter Haifa 92

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Rodriguez’s 31 points propels Haifa to second straight victory, climb within a game of Nahariya & Herzliya

Box Score

With their backs against the wall, Maccabi Hunter Haifa won their second straight game under head coach Barak Peleg, defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 92-79 on the road on Monday evening.   Maccabi (9-20) is now one game out of the loss column behind Ironi Nahariya (10-19) and Bnei Herzliya (10-19) with four games remaining in the regular season.

Angel Rodriguez was the catalyst in Haifa’s second half surge as he tallied a season-high 31 points on the night on 9-of-14 shooting from the field (4-of-5 from 3-PT range and 9/10 from the line) to go along with 4 assists and 3 steals in 33 minutes.  Dagan Yivzori recorded a season-high 18 points, while Zach Graham posted 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc while snaring 5 rebounds.  Trevor Gaskins notched 10 points and 3 assists and Brandon Bowman corralled 10 boards and chipped in 8 points in the Greens’ victory.

Rishon Lezion was paced by former Euroleague star Keith Langford who dropped 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting.  Nizan Hanochi posted 17 points and 6 boards and Drew Crawford tallied 14 points and 4 rebounds.

After losing two previous contests by large margins to Rishon Lezion, it appeared as if Rishon may have their way with the Greens again — jumping out to an early double digit lead 16-6 midway through the first quarter.  But Yivzori and Rodriguez helped trim the gap to bring Haifa within 21-16 at the end of the first frame.

In the second quarter, Zach Graham got into the action, knocking down two 3-pointers, and converted on an And-one to knot the score at 32-32.  Hanochi ensured that Rishon would have a 37-34 edge, burying a three ball right before the close of the first half.

The Greens used a 16-2 run at the beginning of the third frame, sparked by Rodriguez and Yivzori, to claim a 50-42 lead over Rishon.  However, Langford rallied Rishon back into the game as the home team responded with a 7-0 run at the end of the third quarter, capped by a bucket by Hanochi to take give Rishon a 60-59 edge.

Bowman opened the fourth with tough defense, which led to a three-point play on the other end of the floor to reclaim a 62-60 lead for the Greens.  Langford once again put Rishon in front, but Graham tied the scored at 65-65 after splashing in a trey.   Murphy Holloway was fouled, making both from the line to give Rishon a 70-69 lead at the 6:39 mark of the fourth quarter.  Drew Crawford scored a bucket to extend Rishon’s lead to 73-69.  Yivzori nailed a huge 3-pointer to bring Haifa within one point, 73-72.  Yivzori’s trey started a 20-4 surge by the Greens, spearheaded by Rodriguez who caught fire on both ends of the floor, as Haifa pulled away 89-77 with less than a minute to play.

The Greens return to action on Friday, May 11 at 16:00 as they host 8th place Ness Ziona (12-17) at Romema.

Barak Peleg: “I made it clear to the players the whole time that we have to maintain modesty, certainly in our situation. I can’t promise what will happen, I can commit here the players will leave everything on the court every game. I have no magic here, we made a certain change, but it’s hard for me to make professional changes. I know Dagan very well, we have our history. I know what he can give and how important his experience is (to the team).”

Angel Rodriguez: “The most important thing, no matter what people say, no matter what it looks like, we’ve always stayed together.  I know it’s been a rough season, but the most important thing is to finish the right way, to finish with pride. And today we came and we showed pride.  We lost twice to (Rishon Lezion) and we knew it was going to be a battle and we came up with the win…I’ve always been a firm believer it’s not over until it’s over.”