Greens fall short in critical game at home, remain in last place
After collecting two straight wins, Maccabi Hunter Haifa suffered a painful 89-76 loss to Ironi Ness Ziona on Friday afternoon at Romema. The Greens (9-21) were officially eliminated from the playoffs, and now do not control their own destiny in regards to relegation. With three games remaining in the regular season, Ironi Nahariya (10-20) is one game above the red line, and Bnei Herzliya (11-19) and Rishon Lezion (11-19) are two games in front of Haifa in the loss column.
“I felt a lot of pressure from the players today,” coach Barak Peleg said after the game. “Reggie’s injury disrupted our game, but we have no excuses. We didn’t make stops on defense, and Ness Ziona has excellent decisive players.”
The Greens’ Zach Graham lifted the team in the second quarter with a spark off the bench after a dismal start by Haifa, which saw them fall behind by double digits early on in the contest. With the Greens down 20-9 to begin the second frame, Graham recorded 9 points, and Brandon Bowman scored Haifa’s last five points to give Maccabi a 34-33 edge over Ness Ziona going into the break.
The game remained tight throughout the third quarter. Reggie Buckner suffered an ankle injury with the game tied at 53-53, and would not return. Khalif Wyatt buried a 3-pointer to give Ness Ziona a two point lead 60-58 going into the final frame. Golan Gutt (20 points) and Wyatt (24 points) took over in the fourth quarter to extend Ness Ziona’s lead to 75-67. Despite Wyatt being ejected after committing his second technical foul, the Greens couldn’t capitalize as the visitors pulled away for the 13 point victory.
Graham paced Maccabi with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, while Angel Rodriguez dropped 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting. The Greens committed 20 turnovers in the contest, but dished out only 13 assists.
Maccabi’s will face Herzliya on the road on Monday in a must-win game.