J’lem books Top 16 with Ljubljana triumph

Hapoel snaps two-game skid in Eurocup with victory over Slovenians, improving to 4-2 in Group D.

December 1, 2016 00:38
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem guard Curtis Jerrells

Hapoel Jerusalem guard Curtis Jerrells. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Hapoel Jerusalem got its Eurocup campaign back on track on Wednesday night, beating Olimpija Ljubljana 81-69 at the Jerusalem Arena to improve to a 4-2 record and secure its place in the Top 16.

Jerusalem lost its two previous continental contests, but had little trouble overcoming Ljubljana, registering its second win in four days after going almost a month without a victory.

Hapoel got back to winning ways in the BSL on Sunday, defeating Maccabi Haifa 93-71 to improve to 4-4.

Jerusalem visits Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Russia next week, but the game that will determine if it advances from at least second place in the group and receives an easier draw in the next round will be against Ulm at the Jerusalem Arena on December 14.

Yotam Halperin and Bar Timor had 12 points each for Jerusalem, with Amar’e Stoudemire adding 11 points and six rebounds.

Devin Oliver scored 18 points for Ljubljana, which fell to 1-6.

There was little to separate the teams in the first 10 minutes, with Jerusalem taking a fourpoint edge (21-17) into the second quarter.

Hapoel established a double- digit margin by scoring 13 of the final 17 points of the first half (49-36) and never looked back. A Halperin three-pointer capped a 9-0 run, which took the gap to 20 points (62-42) with 2:22 minutes to play in the third frame, and Jerusalem easily wrapped up the win.

Besides securing its qualification for the Top 16, Jerusalem will also be hoping Wednesday’s game moved it a little closer to one day becoming a part of the Euroleague.

President, chairman and CEO of the Euroleague, Jordi Bertomeu, was the guest of club owner Ori Allon on Wednesday, with the Euroleague considering expanding the competition in the coming years, going from 16 to 18 and even 20 teams.

Jerusalem can book its place in the Euroleague for 2017/18 by winning the Eurocup this season. However, even should it fail to do so, Allon is aiming to become a part of continental basketball’s premier club event over the coming years.

“I’m sure that if it’s not next year it will be in the future,” said Bertomeu with Allon standing by his side. “It is clear that the club years ago started with a very consistent project and now we see the results. I’m sure that in the future there will be even better results. The Euroleague doors will always be open for clubs with this kind of ambition, with a clear vision of the future and we are proud to have this kind of team. That is the future of the Euroleague.”

Allon is also confident it is only a matter of time until Jerusalem joins the Euroleague.

“Jordi has come here and he sees our fans and our beautiful arena. This is a Euroleague team,” said Allon. “We will get there one day when the time is right. But we all know we belong there. It takes a lot of time and effort in order to build a club to be successful over time. Jordi and the Euroleague are talking about the possibility of expanding the Euroleague and I think our team is definitely an option.

“But we have to prove it. We have to keep building the club, have 11,000 fans here every game and win games. Once we do all of this together we will be where we belong to be.”

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