Hapoel Jerusalem guard Kalin Lucas had 16 points in his second game for the team last night, helping the Israeli champion to a 93-81 victory over Lietkabelis Panevezys in Eurocup action at the Jerusalem Arena.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s new head coach Mody Maor passed his first Eurocup test in flying colors on Wednesday night, guiding the team to a crucial 93-81 victory over Lietkabelis Panevezys of Lithuania at the Jerusalem Arena.
Jerusalem entered the second half of its regular season campaign with a 1-4 record, losing all three of its home games.
Some of its fans booed the team off the court following last week’s loss to Galatasaray, and it ended up costing coach Fotis Katsikaris his job. Maor, who was the Greek’s top assistant, had never previously worked as a head coach, but was nevertheless surprisingly promoted.
After defeating Ironi Ness Ziona in his debut in BSL action on Saturday, he led the side to a far more significant triumph on Wednesday, with Jerusalem coming back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter to keep alive its hopes of finishing in the top four in Group B and advancing to the Top 16.
After a three-week break from Eurocup action, Hapoel begins the final stretch of the regular season with a game against Buducnost in Montenegro. Three of its final four contests will be on the road, also visiting Bayern Munich and Galatasaray, with a home game against Reggio Emilia sandwiched in between.
Richard Howell led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 19 points against Panevezys, with Jerome Dyson adding 18, Kalin Lucas impressing in his second game for the team with 16 and Stratos Perperoglou contributing 14.
Gary Talton and Simas Jasaitis had 14 points each for Panevezys, which fell to 3-3.
“Our guys have a lot of character and they showed it. They played with guts and heart,” said Maor, who believes the team is still capable of progressing.
“Everything is possible, one game at a time. This break will give me some time to work with the players and we will use this to rest, practice and be ready for the rest of the season.”
The Lithuanians got off to the better start, opening an early seven-point gap (14-7). Jerusalem scored nine of the next 10 points to take its first lead of the night (16-15) and was ahead by eight points (28- 20) after 10 minutes. The hosts remained in front until the break, leading 44-42 at halftime mainly thanks to Howell and Dyson who combined for 27 points.
The start of the second half belonged to the Lithuanians, whose advantage reached 11 points (63-52) with three minutes to play in the third frame after a three-pointer by former Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Jasaitis.
Hapoel looked to be in serious trouble, but turned up a gear on the defensive end before it was too late. Jerusalem ended the quarter with an 11-2 run and was within just two points (65-63) with 10 minutes to play.
The hosts built on the momentum at the start of the final period, outscoring Panevezys 19-5 to open a double-digit margin (82-70) from which the visitors couldn’t come back.
Later Wednesday, Hapoel Holon visited Dinamo Sassri in Italy in the FIBA Champions League. Holon strengthened its roster earlier in the day, signing American- Jew T. J. Cline. The 23-year-old was released by Turkish side Galatasaray after struggling to settle at the Istanbul club.
The forward, who is in his first season as a professional player after three years at the University of Richmond, is the son of Hall of Fame player Nancy Lieberman, one of the greatest figures in American women’s basketball history and currently an assistant coach at the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.