Hapoel Jerusalem opened its Eurocup campaign with a hard-fought 84-76 victory
over Lukoil Academic Sofia at Malha Arena on Wednesday night, while Maccabi
Haifa dropped to a 75-67 defeat to Russian powerhouse Unics Kazan at Romema
Jerusalem raced to an early double-digit lead (14-4), but Sofia
controlled the second period and entered the interval with a three-point edge
(39-36). Hapoel regained the initiative in the third quarter, with Yotam
Halperin’s excellent play helping the hosts open a 61-55 margin with 10 minutes
Academic scored eight straight points early in the fourth
quarter to move back in front and the lead would exchange hands numerous times
until Jerusalem went on a 9-0 surge, capped by a Derwin Kitchen lay up with 2:28
minutes to play, to take an eight-point lead (78-70) it wouldn’t
Belorussian giant Artsiom Parakhouski led Jerusalem with 21
points and eight rebounds, with Halperin and Kitchen adding 14 points
Filip Videnov had 17 points for Sofia.
Haifa trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half before closing to within
two points in the final two minutes of the game, only to see its comeback come
up just short.
Nevertheless, coach Danny Franco was extremely pleased
with what he saw from his players.
“We committed too many turnovers in
the first half and when you lose your concentration against a team like this you
are made to pay,” said Franco, whose team only returned from the US on Monday
after being thrashed in its three pre-season games against the Phoenix Suns,
Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.
“I’m really encouraged by
tonight’s performance. We saw a determined and battling team which doesn’t give
up until the final second even against an opponent like Kazan. We are not happy
we lost, but we will grow from this game and overcome the
In Haifa, an 11-0 run capped by a three-pointer by
former Maccabi Tel Aviv swingman Chuck Eidson gave Kazan an early 12-point lead
(22-10) and the gap would balloon 19 points (34-15).
trailing by 17 points (46-29) at the break, Haifa never gave up the chase,
closing to within six points (55-49) by the end of the third frame.
reestablished a double- digit margin (62-52), but Haifa came within a single
possession with two minutes to play after Moran Roth’s free throws
The hosts had a chance to tie the game, but Donta Smith failed
to sink his difficult shot and Kostas Kaimakoglou’s three with 33 seconds
remaining (72-65) crushed Haifa’s hopes for good.
Ike Ofoegbu had 15
points and six rebounds for Haifa, with Roth contributing 12 points and eight
assists while Brian Randle and Smith scored 11 and 10 points,
Andrew Goudelock led Kazan with 22 points.
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