(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s hopes of reaching the Last 32 of the Eurocup suffered what may well have been a decisive blow on Wednesday night with a 69-67 defeat to Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd in Russia.
Jerusalem dropped to 1-6 in Group E after yet again failing to close out a game in continental competition. In six of its seven regular season games to date, Hapoel entered the final few minutes with everything to play for. However, it only managed to win one of those contests after once more choking when it mattered most on Wednesday.
Despite the loss, Jerusalem remains two games from fourth place, with the top four in the group to qualify for the next stage. However, Hapoel is running out of time and considering its European form so far can scarcely afford to be optimistic about its chances of leapfrogging CSU Ploiesti. Jerusalem visits Partizan Belgrade next week before hosting Ploiesti.
Hapoel will then cap its regular season campaign with a difficult road game at Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius.
Bracey Wright led Hapoel with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists on Wednesday, with Donta Smith adding 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Jerusalem was once more dismal from beyond the arc, hitting just 1-of-6 three-point attempts, with Volgograd taking 14 offensive rebounds.
Romeo Travis led the winners with 23 points and 11 boards.
After a slow start in Russia, Jerusalem began to find its range and took a 17-14 lead into the second period thanks to Smith’s basket.
Tony Gaffney extended Hapoel’s gap to seven points (23-16), but the visitors failed to capitalize on the momentum and a 10-2 Volgograd run saw the Russians move in front (33-32).
Jerusalem had a one-point edge (38-37) at halftime, but lost its way in the third quarter, scoring just two points over six minutes at one stage. Volgograd went on a 12-2 surge, with Victor Cuthbert’s basket opening a 51-44 advantage.
Nevertheless, Hapoel was within six points (56-50) entering the final frame and a Gaffney dunk tied the score at 56-56 with just over six minutes remaining.
The contest was still all- even entering the final minute (63- 63) following Wright’s basket, but Travis’s three with 42 seconds to play gave the hosts the initiative and Jerusalem couldn’t find a way back.