Hapoel Haifa stunned Hapoel Beer Sheva 78-76 as Keenan Evans drilled home a pair of clutch triples in the dying moments of the game to send the Carmel Reds to the WINNER Cup quarterfinals where they will face Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday night.
Caleb Agada and Travis Warech led an early charge for Rami Hadar’s side while Evans, Karam Mashour and Rakeem Buckles did the damage for Elad Hassin as the first half ended deadlocked at 37-37. Spencer Weisz was the main man for the desert reds in the second half as they took a late 76-72 lead late in the game but Evans hit two 3-pointers as time wound down to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat.
Rakeem Buckles led the way for Haifa with 18 points and 7 rebounds, Keenan Evans scared 17 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, Karam Mashour added 17 points and Lennard Freeman chipped in with a double double, 13 points and 15 rebounds. Spencer Weisz was the Beer Sheva high scorer with 20 points, Amir Bell added 16 points while Caleb Agada and Travis Warech each clocked in with 14 points a piece.
1) What a great game! The match up had everting you’d want from clutch shooting to nifty passes and energetic play from both squads. But above all, Keenan Evans came through in the clutch with a pair of 3-pointers with only 23 seconds left in the game to steal the game that just seconds earlier looked to have been already won by Beer Sheva.
2) What did MVP Keenan Evans have to say about the win? “The coaching staff drew up great plays and we executed it perfectly and ended up getting great looks both times. We are excited about our first win but know we have to improve and have another challenge on Saturday.” Yes, and that challenge was supposed to be one Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team that they had faced earlier in the preseason, but due to the lockdown the game has been postponed which isn’t good for both teams and perhaps most importantly for the Yellow & Blue as they face Alba Berlin next Thursday in the opening game of the Euroleague.
3) I am still a bit shocked as to how Beer Sheva didn’t walk away with a win in a game that they seemingly had salted away. Veteran Israeli center Ben Eisenhardt who has been a stalwart with the southern reds after immigrating to country almost a decade ago had this to say about the defeat, “Losses like this never feel good, preseason or otherwise. It’s up to us to learn from the game so that we don’t squander opportunities once the regular season gets underway.” Captain Spencer Weisz echoed his teammates words, “A loss like this is unacceptable. We need to use this game as fuel to motivate us going forward into the regular season.” The truth is as both Eisenhardt and Weisz said, better to lose now than during the season when there will be a lot more on the line for the team. Use it for the good and build off of it, I am sure they will.