In front of a raucous home crowd, Maccabi Haifa defeated Hapoel Holon 99-82 to become the second team to advance to the Israel Basketball League Final Four. The Greens were led by John DiBartolomeo who finished the night with 24 points while Orlando Mendez-Valdez dropped 24 points of his own in the victory as the hosts featured 5 players in double digits. Jordan Taylor had 23 points while James Bell added 16 points for Holon in a losing effort.
Following a very close half of basketball that ended with Haifa holding a 4-point lead 46-42, Mendez-Valdez nailed three straight 3-pointers to give the hosts a 9-point advantage 56-47 just after the break. Taylor and Atkins tried to keep the game close and were within 3-points, 80-77 with 6:13 left in the contest, but just like every other time the visitors came within striking distance, the Greens broke away as the finished off the game with a 19-5 run good for a 99-82 victory.
1) John DiBartolomeo had another spectacular game scoring 24 points while hitting 4/4 from beyond the arc. Add to that 4 assists and 4 rebounds plus 4/6 from two and you have yet another surreal performance by the American-Israeli guard. Let’s look at the series DiBartolomeo had. Over the four games against Holon he scored 19, 28, 19, 24 going 8/13 from two, 19/28 from three and a perfect 17/17 from the free throw line. What!?!? Those are absolutely incredible numbers well eclipsing his regular season averages. Not only is DiBartolomeo putting up numbers but he is doing it with confidence, agility and speed looking unstoppable. Holon and Dan Shamir didn’t have any answers for the US born native, who took the purple people eater number one seed to school all series long. The next test is Maccabi Tel Aviv. How will he fare and how will Maccabi look to stop him. Tune in next Monday night at 21:15.
2) Kudos have to also be handed out to Willy Workman, Kevin Pinckney and Orlando Mendez-Valdez who came up big when they all needed too. Workman provided intensity, grit and determination while the veteran Pinckney recorded a Double-Double with 19 points and 12 rebounds playing 30 minutes as he came up huge down the stretch for Ofer Rahimi’s squad. Mendez-Valdez dropped 24 points going 5/6 from 3-point land and gave the Greens consistency throughout the game. They helped close out the game for Haifa and made sure there would be no game 5 back down in Holon.
3) Guni Israeli had been a non-factor all season long for Dan Shamir but kept Holon in the game throughout the contest as he played a season high 36 minutes scoring 11 points and dishing out 6 assists. Israeli, who had been in the doghouse and written off various times this season showed that he still has something left in the tank and throughout the first half was a key player in keeping the game close.
Let’s look at what a number of people said about John DiBartolomeo:
Ofer Rahimi: “He works so hard and he doesn’t just help us on the offensive end but on the defensive side of the game as well. He is everywhere, closing down the passing lanes and playing tight defense. I’m so happy for him and I hope that I will have the privilege to coach him in the future.”
Oz Blayzer: “I don’t think that only one word can describe what he did in this series. He was all over the court and was an energizer for us, he did everything. Every team would want a player like this both on the court and in the lockerroom.”
Dan Shamir: “He is a dominant creative force. He played an amazing series scoring 13 points in the second quarter of the first game. They were difficult shots and I remember each and every one of them. He nailed a step back three-pointer in front of Tony Younger or another shot on the baseline. He took advantage of any mistake we made. He played at a very high level and I only wish him the best.”
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 91-94 Hapoel Eilat
Hapoel Eilat held off Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 94-91 to force a 5th and decisive game on Wednesday night. Pierria Henry scored 34 points while picking up 5 assists while Landon Milbourne dropped 23 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in the win. Rishon Le’Zion featured five players in double digits as Patrick Richard dropped 16 points and Cameron Long scored 14 for the defending champs who will now have to win game 5 on the road. Eilat led throughout the contest entering the final frame with a 13-point lead, 68-55. However, Rishon scored 36 fourth quarter points to narrow the gap but couldn’t find a way past Oded Katash’s side.