Yancy Gates .
(photo credit: LIRON MOLDOVAN/BSL)
Ironi Nahariya joined BSL champion Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the group stage of the FIBA Champions League on Thursday night, beating Tsmoki-Minsk of Belarus 71-67 at Ein Sara Arena to complete an eight-point aggregate victory after also winning the first leg on the road by the same margin.
Nahariya trailed by four points with seven minutes to play on Thursday, but eked out a tight win that guarantees it a long campaign in the inaugural season of FIBA’s new club competition.
Nahariya will play in Group A with Fraport Skyliners of Germany, Aris Thessaloniki of Greece, CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic, Helios Suns of Slovenia, Banvit of Turkey, Bakken Bears of Denmark and AS Monaco, which plays in the French league.
“We made history,” said Nahariya coach Eric Alfasi. “We will be facing teams that have played in the Euroleague and Eurocup.”
Gilbert Brown led Nahariya with 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists, with Yancy Gates contributing 14 points. Dru Joyce finished with 17 points for Minsk.
The Champions League will involve 48 teams from 31 countries, but none of Europe’s biggest clubs, which will be playing in the Euroleague and Eurocup.
The regular season, which gets under way on October 18, consists of four groups of eight teams each, with the four best ranked teams from each group after 14 games to advance to the playoffs.
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Rishon was drawn into Group B with Pinar Karsiyaka of Turkey, Umana Reyer Venezia of Italy, Avtodor Saratov of Russia, Khimik of Ukraine, Le Mans of France, Kataja Basket from Finland and CSM CSU Oradea of Romania.
In State Cup action on Thursday, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Holon, Hapoel Eilat and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil all advanced to the round of 16 with wins over National League rivals.
Tel Aviv beat Hapoel Ramat Gan/Givatayim 94-54, Holon crushed Hapoel Galil Elyon/Safed 94-60, Hapoel Eilat thrashed Maccabi Hod Hasharon 109-77, while Galil/Gilboa defeated Ramat Hasharon 80-56.
In two all-National League encounters, Maccabi Rehovot beat Hapoel Haifa 83-71 and Elitzur Kiryat Ata overcame Hapoel Gilboa/Afula 94-85.
The six winners on Thursday joined Hapoel Jerusalem and National League clubs Maccabi Ra’anana and Hapoel Beersheba, which all progressed on Wednesday.
Six teams advanced automatically to the second round - last season’s four semifinalists (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Ashdod, Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Ironi Ness Ziona) and two of last season’s quarterfinalists who were selected in a draw (Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Herzliya).
The final berth in the roundof- 16 will be decided on October 13 in a game between Ironi Ramat Gan and Nahariya.
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