History Makers: Greens are headed to the Final Four!

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The Greens became the first No. 8 team in Israeli League history to win a series against a first place team

Box Score

Maccabi Hunter Haifa made history in front of a packed crowd at Romema Arena on Sunday evening.  The Greens became the first eighth place team ever to defeat a top seed in the quarterfinals in Israeli Winner League history after eliminating Holon 99-82 in game four to win the series 3-1 on Sunday night.

The Greens will face Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Final Four at Tel Aviv on June 12.  After a two-year absence, Maccabi Hunter Haifa will return to the Final Four for the first time since 2013-14 when Haifa advanced all the way to the Finals against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

After being held scoreless in game three, Orlando Mendez-Valdez exploded for 24 points against Holon on 5-of-6 shooting from downtown (5-of-7 from the line) to go along with 3 rebounds and 4 assists.  John DiBartolomeo scorched Holon this series, dropping 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field (4-of-4 from 3-point range) while snaring four rebounds and dishing out 4 assists.  The hottest player in the league averaged 22.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the four games of the quarterfinals.  Big man Kevinn Pinkney recorded a double-double on 19 points and 12 rebounds, while captain Oz Blayzer added 12 points, and Gregory Vargas chipped in 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field along with 3 assists.

For the first time in the series, Tu Holloway was not Holon’s leading scorer.  Jordan Taylor was the visitor’s top scorer with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, while Holloway was limited to 10 points and 4 assists. Darion Atkins dropped 17 points and James Bell added 16 points, but wasn’t enough for Holon to force a game five.

Maccabi Hunter Haifa shot 55 percent from three-point range and led throughout most of the contest. With every Holon run, the Greens countered right back.  In the first period, Haifa and Holon traded leads as the Greens reclaimed a one point edge, 22-21, after a Rashaun Freeman scored in the paint to close the quarter.

Bell gave Holon a quick lead in the second period, but DiBartolomeo splashed in a 3-pointer and Workman added two from the line to put Haifa up 27-23.   Taylor answered with a 3-pointer and Atkins hit a turnaround in the paint to put Holon up by one, but Mendez-Valdez reeled off 9 points, burying back-to-back triples and later converted on a three-point play to put Haifa up 36-31.  Holloway scored four straight, but Pinkney threw down two dunks as Haifa led 40-37.   Holon whittled the Greens’ lead down to one point, but Blayzer hit an improbable 3-pointer right before the buzzer as Haifa went into the break leading, 46-42.

Mendez-Valdez came out firing in the third period, connecting on his first three shots from beyond the arc to put Haifa up by 9 points, 56-47. Taylor netted a trey, but DiBartolomeo answered on the other end of the floor with a 3-pointer and Pinkney was fouled, netting both from the line.  Mendez-Valdez connected one of two from the line to give Haifa their largest lead of the game at that point of the contest, 65-52, at the 4:04 mark.  Holon’s Atkins and Bell led a spirited rally to whittle Haifa’s lead down to five points, 69-64, but DiBartolomeo grabbed the momentum back — converting on a four-point play — drawing a foul on a fade away 3-pointer as the Greens finished the third period with a 73-66 advantage.

To start the final quarter, Holon brought the gap back down to five points, but DiBartolomeo, once again, gave Haifa some breathing room with a triple to put Haifa up 78-70.  Holon’s Guni Israel scored a bucket and missed an extra point, and Taylor drained another 3-pointer as Holon cut it back to five points, 80-75, with 6:39 on the clock.  Atkins made it even tighter with another bucket inside to bring Holon within three points.

That’s as close as Holon would come.

Pinkney converted on a three-point play after drawing a foul and Workman scored on a tip-in as Haifa extended their lead to 85-77.  DiBartolomeo drove to the rim for a bucket and later recorded a steal and hit a jumper to widen Haifa’s lead to 91-80.  Haifa continued to push as they finished Holon off 99-82 to close out the series, 3-1.