Hapoel Haifa downed Maccabi Tel Aviv 123-114 in double overtime however the game was overshadowed by a scary injury to Ante Zizic during the first half of the contest. The loss resulted in the yellow-and-blue finishing the regular season in second place behind Hapoel Jerusalem which will set up best of five quarterfinal series between the reining champions and their arch rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv which will begin on Thursday night. Haifa will be the visiting team in their playoff series against Beni Herzliya.
In a back and forth game, Amit Simhon led the way for the Carmel Reds with 41 points, James Ennis added 22 points and Kadeem Allen scored 18 points in the win. Keenan Evans paced Maccabi with 29 points, Scottie Wilbekin added 17 points and Derrick Williams chipped in with 14 points in the loss.
However, the Maccabi loss was secondary to the serious injury that Ante Zizic suffered in the first half. The Croatian big man collided with both teammate Keenan Evans and Haifa’s James Ennis which sent the center reeling backwards as he smashed the back of his head onto the floor. After more than a quarter hour Zizic was taken to Ichilov Hospital and was conscious as well as in conversation with the doctors after a CT scan came back with normal results.
“I have never been through such an evening in my career,” a teary eyed Maccabi coach Avi Even said following the game. “This was a mentally tough game which we wanted to end differently but I am proud of the effort. We hope that God will take care of Ante and we are a family, living together every day. The players are like our children and health ultimately is above all.”
“We are looking forward to the series with Hapoel Tel Aviv and we have a few debts to settle with them. We lost home court advantage throughout the playoffs but we are looking ahead now to the championship.”
Haifa coach Elad Hasin also reflected on the incident with Zizic as well as the game, “We all hope that Zizic will get better soon and get back to playing quickly. This was a very difficult moment for all of us and he is a such a good person. As for the game, I’m very proud of the guys and Amit who had a huge game. I can’t recall seeing a player have such a performance, he’s a professional and a hard worker. I’m happy for him.
Hapoel Jerusalem outlasted Bnei Herzliya 106-101 in overtime as Suleiman Braimoh starred in the victory as five Reds scored in double digits. The capital city squad jumped out to a 52-44 lead at halftime but DJ Cooper and Chinanu Onuaku helped the hosts come back to tie the game up and send it into overtime. However, KC Rivers, Jalen Adams and Braimoh led Yotam Halperin’s team in the extra session to take the 5-point win.
The Reds will now tip off against Hapoel Gilboa Galil and Herzliya will host Hapoel Haifa in their respective best of five quarterfinal series that will both get underway on Thursday evening.
Braimoh led the way with 21 points, Rivers added 18 points and Adams chipped in with 17 points in the victory. Onuaku scored 21 points, Cooper had 18 points and Kemp scored 16 points in the loss.
“I think it was a hard fought game on both sides of the ball and it was a good chance to see what we need to work on,” Jerusalem’s Retin Obasohan said. “It’s always good to play a good team to see how to improve and when guys were out others stepped up, our front office found guys that know how to step up when they need to.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva smashed Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 95-76 as Nick Hornsby paced the southerners with a triple-double to the blow out victory. The hosts came out flying to take a quick 32-16 lead after ten minutes as they easily cruised to the 19-point win. Hornsby led the way with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, Cody Demos scored 20 points and Amir Bell added 17 points in the win. Tal Peled scored 18 points, Yuval Schnaiderman put in 15 points while Anthony Brown scored 14 points in the loss.
Hapoel Tel Aviv overwhelmed Hapoel Eilat 90-63 as the reds used a huge fourth quarter to take the win ahead of the playoffs. Danny Franco’s team took a slim 37-34 advantage at halftime but a massive final frame with points by JP Tokoto, James Young and Bar Timor who scored at will over the final ten minutes notched the victory. Tokoto led the way with 25 points, Timor added 18 points while Young and Josh Owens each scored 12 points for Tel Aviv. Bryon Allen and Toney Douglas scored 13 points a piece for the red seas city squad in the defeat.
Nes Ziona blasted Hapoel Gilboa Galil 93-73 as Golan Gutt with 8 3-pointers spurred the hosts to the win. Visiting Gilboa started well, but the hosts grabbed the lead by halftime and never looked back to take the victory. Gutt scored 25 points, Diante Garrett added 16 points and Tim Soares scored 13 points for Lior Lubin’s team. Michael Brisker paced the Galilee team with 17 points and Derek Cooke added scored 11 points in the loss. Gilboa will now ready for a quarterfinal series with Hapoel Jerusalem.