Hapoel Jerusalem guard Curtis Jerrells (right) was the lone bright spot for his team in last night’s defeat to Luke Sikma and Valencia in Game 3 of the Eurocup semifinals in Spain..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s Eurocup dream came to an end in emphatic fashion in Valencia on Wednesday night.
Hapoel entered the third and decisive game of the semifinals at Fuente de San Luis Arena in an optimistic mood after tying the best-of-three series at 1-1 with an impressive 79-66 win in Jerusalem on Friday.
But it trailed almost from start to finish in Game 3, falling to a 90-75 defeat after effectively losing all hope early in the second half when Valencia’s gap reached 20 points.
The first two games of the series were tight until the fourth quarter before the home team surged ahead. Jerusalem was hoping to also keep the series decider tight for as long as possible and then let the pressure take its toll on the hosts.
Valencia had different plans though, establishing a 12-point margin (44-32) by the interval before scoring the first eight points of the second half to break Hapoel’s spirit.
Curtis Jerrells was the lone bright spot for Jerusalem, finishing with 19 points.
Fernando San Emeterio led six Valencia players in double figures with 15 points.
Valencia will face Malaga in the final.
Hapoel, which was playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2006, was targeting its first continental final since its one and only European triumph back in 2004 when it beat Real Madrid to claim the ULEB Cup.
As if Wednesday’s game wasn’t important enough for Jerusalem, its result may also end up shaping the club’s upcoming seasons. The team that wins the Eurocup title will be handed a berth in the Euroleague next season, meaning Jerusalem now needs to hope for favors in order to receive a place among the continent’s top sides next season.
Valencia’s record at the Fuente de San Luis Arena has made it one of the competition’s most successful teams, with the Spaniards claiming the title in 2010 and 2014 and reaching the final for the fourth time in eight years on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, Hapoel really believed it could claim the precious road win on Wednesday, especially as it won in Valencia in the Eurocup regular season five months ago, the only team to do so in the competition this season.
After an edgy start to the game by both teams, the hosts were the first to regain their cool, opening a six-point lead (15-9).
Seven Hapoel turnovers in the first period, equal to the entire amount it registered in Game 2, allowed Valencia to establish a seven-point gap (21-14). But Hapoel’s three-point proficiency ensured it was never too far behind, with Jerrells hitting his third triple from three attempts at the buzzer to bring the visitors to within four points (21-17).
Jerrells took his tally to 11 points with his layup to start the second quarter, but Jerusalem couldn’t build on the momentum.
Hapoel went more than five minutes without a basket and Valencia reestablished a seven-point margin (33-26).
Yotam Halperin ended Hapoel’s drought with a three-point play (33- 29) with just under three minutes remaining in the second period, but the hosts dominated the remainder of the half. Valencia scored 11 of the next 14 points to open a promising 12-point cushion (44-32) at the break.
Jerusalem knew it would need a good start to the second half, but instead it was the Spaniards who hit the ground running. Valencia opened the third frame with an 8-0 run to take a 20-point lead (52-32) which Hapoel never came close to erasing, ending its Eurocup campaign with a whimper.