Eurocup Hoops: Hap J'lem opens Last 16 by shocking Valencia

Turks lose 85-79 to Unics Kazan in their group opener.

January 27, 2010 08:02
2 minute read.
Eurocup Hoops: Hap J'lem opens Last 16 by shocking Valencia

Hapoel Jerusalem 298.88. (photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)

Hapoel Jerusalem claimed a stunning road victory over Valencia on Tuesday night, defeating the Spaniards 79-75 in its Eurocup Last 16 Group J opener.

Jerusalem entered the game as a clear underdog and seemed to be heading to a loss when it trailed by double-figures for most of the first half. Valencia still looked comfortable enough when it led by nine points with 10 minutes remaining, but a remarkable fourth period gave Guy Goodes's team an unexpected victory.

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Hapoel began the quarter with a 20-2 run and held on for the significant win thanks to accurate free-throw shooting. Jerusalem can take an important step towards the Eurocup quarterfinals with a victory over Turkey's Galatasaray in its second group game at Malha Arena next Tuesday.

The Turks lost 85-79 to Unics Kazan in their group opener on Tuesday.

Tre Simmons was superb for Jerusalem in Spain, scoring 17 points and taking six rebounds. Pooh Jeter and Sharon Sasson added 15 and 13 points, respectively, with Yuval Naimi scoring six, but passing eight assists.

Nando De Colo led Valencia with 23 points, with Rafa Martinez scoring 15. However, Valencia, guided by former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach, Neven Spahija, couldn't find the basket in the crucial closing stages and fell to a painful defeat.

The hosts made the most of their significant size advantage at the start of the encounter, with 2.17-meter Kosta Perovic terrorizing Hapoel's big-men under the basket.

The Serbian center opened an 8-2 lead for Valencia, but Jerusalem came right back and a Leo Lyons dunk capped an 8-0 run to put the visitors in front (10-8).

However, the Spaniards answered with a 12-0 run, with Rafa Martinez's three-pointer opening a double-digit gap (20-10).

Valencia took a 25-14 advantage into the second period and continued to extend its margin in the subsequent minutes, leading 30-16 after a Jose Simeon basket.

Jerusalem looked lost, but slowly improved its defense and began to eat away at the gap. Sasson was finding his range and Naimi's turnaround jumper with just under one minute to play in the first half brought Hapoel within three points (38-35).

Valencia extended its lead by two more points by the break (40-35) and opened a comfortable margin in the third period once more, with a Martinez triple giving the hosts a 59-48 advantage.

Jerusalem was still in trouble at the start of the fourth quarter, trailing 63-54, but the visitors would catch fire in the final 10 minutes, stunning the hosts.

Five Pooh Jeter points and baskets by Naimi, Kukia and Sasson helped the team to a 12-0 run to start the period, giving Goodes's men a 66-63 lead, their first since the first quarter.

Valencia couldn't believe it let its big lead slip and was in complete shock. Hapoel, on the other hand, couldn't miss, with Sasson and Simmons triples giving the team a 74-65 gap with 3.20 to play.

The Spaniards scored a quick five points to move back within touching distance, but Jerusalem was accurate from the free-throw line and held on for an impressive victory.

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