Hapoel Jerusalem is confident of advancing to the quarterfinals of the Eurocup next week despite suffering an 89-87 defeat at Ulm of Germany in the first leg of the last 16 on Wednesday night.
Jerusalem led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter and took a four-point gap into the final 10 minutes (69-65).
However, the hosts opened the fourth quarter with a 15-3 run to seize control and ultimately eked out a tight win.
Nevertheless, with a second leg to come at Malha Arena next week and with the tie to be decided on aggregate score, Jerusalem will be optimistic of overturning the slender deficit and progressing to the last eight for the first time since 2010.
Hapoel has suffered just a single defeat in eight Eurocup games in Jerusalem this season and that too came against Russian powerhouse Khimki Moscow and only after two overtimes.
Jerusalem has also won its last nine home games in local action, winning 14 of its past 15 BSL games in total.
Josh Duncan led Jerusalem with 22 points on Wednesday, while Bracey Wright and Art Parakhouski had 15 points each.
Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin added 12 and 11 points, respectively, for Jerusalem, which paid a dear price for its dismal night from beyond the arc, connecting on just 3-of-20 three-point attempts (15%).
Ulm, on the other hand, hit 13-of-27 triples, led by Edgar Sosa, who ended the night with 19 points, including three baskets from distance.
“In a home-and-away tie it is important to keep the score tight ahead of the home leg,” said Duncan. “Even though we are disappointed with the defeat, the final result puts us in a good position to complete the job in front of our fans next week.”
Jerusalem seemed intent to all but clinch the tie in Germany at the start of the game, building an early 12-point gap (23-11).
However, Ulm closed to within five points (27-22) by the end of the first period after Sosa scored the final five points of the quarter and took its first lead of the night (43- 42) following Will Clyburn’s basket.
Hapoel nevertheless had the upper hand at the break after scoring the final eight points of the first half (50-43) and remained in the lead throughout the third frame.
However, Jerusalem froze at the start of the final quarter, scoring just one basket and three points in the first five minutes.
Brad Greenberg’s men had no answer to Ulm’s blistering start to the period, but Hapoel will return home in a buoyant mood, believing that reversing a two-point deficit at Malha is well within its capabilities.
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