Maccabi Tel Aviv downed Hapoel Haifa 81-75 as they received a huge boost with the return of veteran forward Omri Casspi and Captain John Dibartolomeo whom had both been out of action due to injuries for close to a full year. Despite not having played for twelve months, the pair didn’t look one bit rusty as Casspi used his savviness both on the inside and outside to score 10 points while DiBartolomeo checked in with not only 8 points but floor generalship that hasn’t been seen in quite some time for the yellow-and-blue.
Oz Blayzer paced Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad with 21 points, Ante Zizic added 11 points and Tyler Dorsey scored 9 points each in the win. Keenan Evans scored 17 points, Amit Simhon added 16 points and Jason Siggers chipped in with 14 points in the losing cause.
Hunter got the game off to a bang with a nice breakaway dunk but Rakeem Buckles, Keenan Evans and Lennard Freeman all put Haifa on the board to take a 8-5 lead midway through the first quarter. Oz Blayzer cleaned up a Scottie Wilbekin miss, then hit a fadeaway jump shot and added another pair of points while Angelo Caloiaro drained a triple. Omri Casspi entered the game and immediately scored a pair of free throws and a beautiful put-back in the paint as the yellow-and-blue grabbed a 20-15 advantage after ten minutes.
Tyler Dorsey got the second quarter underway with a triple as Ante Zizic and Max Heidegger put in free throws while Blayzer drilled another 3-pointer and a slam dunk to bump up the Maccabi lead to 35-19 with 5:45 left in the half. Evans put in points for Elad Hasin’s team, Blayzer came out of a timeout and went from long distance once again but Amit Simhon and Evans cut the lead, however, John DiBartolomeo who was always making his return to the court hit from beyond the arc to send Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad into halftime up 46-34.
Othello Hunter put in points for Maccabi, Simhon went from deep at the other end of the court while Blayzer once again scored to keep the hosts in front 50-41 midway through the third quarter. Buckles, Siggers and Simhon chipped away at the Maccabi lead to cut it to 52-48 but within a minute and a half Casspi, DiBartolomeo, Dorsey and a Hunter bumped it back up to 61-48 after thirty minutes.
Casspi scored inside as did youngster Dori Sahar while DiBartolomeo nailed a deep triple to put Maccabi ahead by 18 points, 68-50 with 6:59 left in regulation. Evans nailed a 3-pointer, Karam Mashour found points both from the outside and in the paint but baskets inside by Zizic sealed the deal in the 6-point win.