Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin (left) and coach Simone Pianigiani.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s losing streak reached five games on Wednesday night following an 86-84 defeat to Valencia at the Jerusalem Arena, falling to 3-2 in Eurocup Group D.
Hapoel hasn’t won a game in three weeks, with its campaign being derailed by three losses in the BSL and two in continental action.
After humbling defeats to Hapoel Holon (99-76), at Ulm in Germany (103-77) and Maccabi Ashdod (70-57), Jerusalem showed some fight against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday (85-83) and versus Valencia on Wednesday. Nevertheless, it still didn’t do enough to get back to winning ways, increasing the pressure on coach Simone Pianigiani.
Jerusalem erased an 18-point deficit and led early in the fourth quarter against Valencia, but couldn’t wrap up the win, and while it will qualify for the Top 16, its chances of doing so from first place suffered a significant blow on Wednesday.
Valencia improved to 5-1 and victories in its two remaining games will secure first place.
Jerome Dyson had 17 points for Hapoel, which will now hope to end its losing streak against Maccabi Haifa in BSL action on Sunday. Lior Eliyahu added 16 points, while Antoine Diot led Valencia with 21 points.
There was little to separate the teams for the first seven minutes, but Valencia would end the first period with a 9-0 run to open a double-digit lead (21-11). Jerusalem paid the price for committing eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes, and although it reduced its recklessness in the second quarter, matters only got worse. Hapoel couldn’t get anything going offensively and Valencia’s lead reached 18 points (41-23) before the hosts limited the damage to enter the break down by 11 points (44-33).
Jerusalem built on the momentum at the start of the second half, holding Valencia scoreless for almost four minutes to go on a 12-0 run. Curtis Jerrells’s free throws midway through the third period, his first points of the game, brought Hapoel within a single possession (48-45).
Five straight points by Jerrells then gave Jerusalem its first lead (56-54) since the first quarter and the hosts took a three-point edge (60-57) into the final 10 minutes.
A 7-0 Valencia surge gave it a 72-66 advantage midway through the fourth frame and the Spaniards led by three points (77-74) entering the final three minutes. Valencia never relinquished the lead, with Hapoel closing within a single point (80-79) following Dyson’s three with 48 seconds remaining, only to turn over the ball in its next two possessions and drop to a painful defeat.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Ironi Nahariya continued its recent revival with its second straight win in the FIBA Champions League, improving to 2-4 in Group A with a 90-71 victory over Bakken Bears in Denmark.
Gilbert Brown had 21 points for Nahariya, which has also won two straight games in the BSL after beginning the season with four defeats from five contests.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion dropped to 2-4 in Group B of the Champions League on Tuesday, suffering its fourth straight defeat in the competition, an 80-72 setback against Le Mans in France.
Javon McCrea had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Rishon, which was playing without the injured Shawn Dawson.
Rishon sits in sixth place in the standings, but has plenty of time to make amends, with the four best ranked teams from each group after 14 games to advance to the playoffs.