Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Maccabi Haifa in dramatic fashion 97-96 as the Yellow & Blue who twisted for the majority of the game needed the help of a Gregory Vargas (18 points) missed shot at the buzzer to pull out the win. Will Graves starred for the Greens scoring 34 points while going 6/8 beyond the arc while Gal Mekel and Colton Iverson each dropped 21 points in the victory.
Haifa controlled the tempo of the first half leading 59-55 after twenty minutes thanks to sharpshooting from all over the court going 14/18, 78% from two and 9/16, 56% from three while leading for over 18 out of the first 20 minutes of the half. Graves dropped 18 points as Kevin Pinkney and Gregory Vargas scored 11 points in the half. Maccabi received 15 points for Colton Iverson and 12 from Victor Rudd to keep the hosts in the game.
A strong third quarter for Maccabi gave them a five point lead going into the final frame where Gal Mekel (21 points & 5 assists) starred for the Yellow & Blue as Rudd gave them the lead for good with 47 seconds left in the game. The Greens had a chance to win the contest when Oz Blayzer stole the ball off an errant inbounds pass, but Gregory Vargas’s 3-pointer missed the mark at the buzzer to secure a win for Ainars Bagatskis and his squad.
1) Will Graves scored 34 points for the Greens, dominating Tel Aviv every which way by hitting 3’s right in the Yellow & Blue defender’s faces, nailing fadeways and knocking down anything and everything that came his way. Both his coach Ofer Rahimi and Maccabi boss Ainars Bagatskis praised his efforts, but Graves was harsh on himself after the contest saying that he missed his last free throw and that was the one point difference in the game.
2) Bagatskis spoke about or perhaps tried to explain why his team’s defense was not up to par and hasn’t been for the last few games. He looked for reasons, but I believe it all begins and ends with a short rotation. After Devin Smith got hurt in only 6 minutes of play, the Latvian had to rely on just 8 players and the situation doesn’t look any more promising going forward against Olympiacos on Thursday. He even said that they are so shorthanded they have been playing 4 on 4 in practice. The question is, when will Maccabi sign a player to step in for those released and injured.
3) I asked Gal Mekel about how strange a game basketball is and how at the beginning of the season playing time was at a premium and now there’s plenty to go around. He spoke about the change in coaches and of course the deep squad Maccabi did have at one point, but no more. At the end of the day, what Bagatskis is doing now is exactly what should have been done from the start of the campaign; get everyone involved and let everyone play in all competitions, not just one or two of them. That way the Yellow & Blue would’ve been one team and not three or four as Bagatskis had said it was when he arrived.
Rishon Le’Zion 68-82 Hapoel Jerusalem
Hapoel Jerusalem comfortably beat Rishon Le’Zion, 82-68. Jerome Dyson scored 22 points, while Curtis Jerrels finished with 17 points for a dominant Hapoel Jerusalem. Javon McCrea scored 14 points, while Shawn Dawson finished with 14 for the disappointing Rishon Lezion.
Hapoel Holon 80-78 Hapoel Tel Aviv
Hapoel Holon bounced back with a narrow victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv, 80-78. Darion Atkins scored 17 points, while James Bell scored 15 points for the Khalif Wyatt-less Holon. Alando Tucker scored 21 points, while Mark Lyons scored 20 points for Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Gilboa/Galil 66-80 Maccabi Kiryat Gat
Maccabi Kiryat Gat beat Gilboa/Galil 80-66 in a dominant display. Josh Selby scored 23 points, while Brandon Bowman finished with 19 points for Kiryat Gat. Michael Qualls scored 19 points, while Ziv Ben Zvi finished with 10 for the losing Gilboa.
Bnei Herzliya 64-67 Ironi Nahariya
Ironi Nahariya beat Bnei Herzliya 67-64 in what was a great back and forth game. Yancy Gates scored 17 points, while Scotty Hopson scored 13 points for Nahariya. Karam Mashour finished with 18 points, while Jeff Adrien had 13 points for the losing Herzliya.
Maccabi Ashdod 93-82 Hapoel Eilat
Maccabi Ashdod completed a big upset in what could be a costly loss for Eilat. Preston Knowles scored 23 points, while Chase Simon finished with 17 for Maccabi Ashdod. Will Daniels had 17, while Afik Nissim scored 15 of his own for Hapoel Eilat.