Maccabi Haifa’s Ido Kozikaro.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem survived a nail-biting finish in Slovenia to get the Eurocup
Last 32 off to a winning start on Wednesday night, while Maccabi Haifa opened
its account with a home victory.
The lead changed hands three times in
the final minute of Jerusalem’s Group M opener before Hapoel eventually eked out
a 69-66 victory at Olimpija Ljubljana.
Despite its recent struggles,
Haifa held on for an 80-75 win over CEZ Nymburk at Romema
Ljubljana couldn’t find its range at the start of the game and a
Rafi Menko three-pointer with two minutes to play in the first quarter opened a
promising 21-6 lead for Hapoel.
However, the hosts would score the final
eight points of the period and Drazen Bubnic’s basket four minutes into the
second frame capped a 20-4 run and gave the Slovenians their first lead of the
The visitors had the edge at the interval (36-34) and a
Yotam Halperin triple with two minutes to play in the third quarter capped a 7-0
Jerusalem was ahead by five points (52-47) with 10 minutes
to play and Derwin Kitchen’s lay-up increased the margin to nine points (58-49).
But Hapoel would go scoreless in the subsequent four minutes and Alex
Stepheson’s basket put Ljubljana in the lead (59-58).
A tense finish
would ensue, with a Josh Duncan three followed by a Lior Eliyahu basket with 55
seconds remaining giving Jerusalem the advantage (65-64).
Ljubljana back in front, but Kitchen scored the go-ahead basket with 35 seconds
left (67-66) and the visitors clinched the win with a crucial defensive
Kitchen ended the game with 14 points, with Eliyahu, Halperin and
Duncan scoring 10 points each.
Sasu Salin had 19 points for
At Romema, Haifa got off to a bright start, with birthday boy
Ido Kozikaro forcing the visitors into an early timeout by opening a seven-point
A steal and basket by former Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Tre
Simmons at the end of the first quarter limited the damage for Nymburk (21-16),
but Haifa would pull ahead at the start of the second period, thanks in large to
the in-form Dagan Yavzuri.
A David Cubillan three-pointer gave the Greens
their first double-digit gap of the night (29-18) and two consecutive triples by
Yavzuri maintained Haifa’s promising advantage (45-36).
Yavzuri’s 13 points in the second quarter, Nymburk closed to within just three
points by the break (47- 44) following a Simmons buzzer beater from beyond the
A 10-3 run to start the second half saw Haifa open a double-figure
cushion (57-47) once more, but yet again it was Simmons who ensured the Czechs
never lost touch, with his three to end the third frame cutting the deficit to
two points (65-63).
However, Simmons would score just two points in the
final 10 minutes of the encounter and Haifa would open a lead it wouldn’t
relinquish with a 7-0 surge to start the fourth quarter (72-63).
Ilievski triple brought Nymburk within three points (78-75) with 56 seconds to
play, but Haifa would hold on for a vital Last 32 win, considering its two other
rivals in Group K are the powerful Khimki Moscow and Montepaschi
Yavzuri led Haifa with 17 points, with Donta Smith finishing with
15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Cubillan scored 14 points, netting
Simmons had a game-high 23 points for Nymburk in the loss .