Hapoel Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes believes the fighting qualities of his players will be the decisive factor in Wednesday night’s Eurocup quarterfinal return leg against Alba Berlin in Germany.
Jerusalem defeated Alba 67-61 at Malha Arena in the first leg last week, meaning it can afford to lose by five points in Berlin and still advance to the Eurocup semifinals.
Despite squandering a 20-point lead at home, Goodes was delighted with his team’s victory and is confident that if his players show the same battling spirit in Berlin, Hapoel will reach the last four for the first time in four years.
In 2006 Jerusalem lost out to Dynamo Moscow in a two-legged semifinal series.
“These are big days in the life of the clubs and in the life of every coach or player involved,” Goodes said.
“Big days are hard and you need to be really focused on your targets. I felt this was the situation in Jerusalem last Wednesday when both teams were fighting for 40 minutes for every possession.
“I predict that will be the situation in Berlin.
“It is never easy to play in Germany, but we always believed we could surprise everybody and go to the Eurocup Finals.”
Jerusalem was ahead by some 20 points in the third period of the first leg, but after holding Berlin to just 18 points in the first half, the Germans scored 23 and 20 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, and despite turning over the ball 17 times will enter the second leg as the favorites.
“After the first game we are down by six, but we should not look too much at this result,” Alba coach Luka Pavicevic said. “We need to prepare ourselves to play the game properly and try to solve the many challenges and problems that Hapoel poses for us. And then, by going this way into the game and trying to win it, we should find the strength to overcome the point difference in the end.
“To go for the difference right from the beginning would be the wrong way. My experience shows that usually this kind of approach opens up a new bunch of problems in the game.”
With playmakers Yuval Naimi, Pooh Jeter and Yogev Ohayon combining for a mere 11 points last week, it was up to Hapoel’s big guys to convert on the offensive end.
Kevinn Pinkney and Dijon Thompason combined for 23 points, but the star of the game was center Brandon Hunter, who contributed 23 points and 10 rebounds under the baskets.
“Alba is strong physically and strong-minded. Even when they were 20 points down they did not break and step by step they closed the gap,” Hunter said.
“They did not stop fighting for a second, I admire them for that and I know that we will have to take this character from them to win the game in Berlin otherwise we don’t have a chance.
“It will be a war on Wednesday between Jerusalem and Berlin, and I hope that we will be on the winning side.”
Goodes is confident that his players will rise to the occasion.
“A great atmosphere of basketball always encourages great players to do great things,” he said.
feel that this is the time for great players to show their ability. You
need to be on top form to beat a team like Alba as it is hard to break
their toughness. We will do all we can to go to the semis.”