(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Hapoel Jerusalem can clinch top spot in Group E of the EuroChallenge with a victory at EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Germany on Tuesday.
A defeat, however, combined with a MyGuide Amsterdam home win over Larissa, will knock the team out of the competition and end its European campaign far earlier than anyone at the club had envisioned at the start of the season.
"The qualification for the next round depends on the outcome of this game," said Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes, who was unhappy with his team's travel arrangements to Germany because the connecting flights made the journey lengthier than he would have liked. "It's a catastrophe. I hope that the game goes better than the flying conditions."
Oldenburg, which defeated Hapoel 88-81 at the Malha Arena a month ago, will also claim first place in the group with a victory and has been in excellent form recently.
"Undoubtedly, Oldenburg has good momentum. They beat Alba Berlin, a Euroleague team, by 10 points," Goodes said. "This is a single game in which anything can happen and we are ready for any possibility."
The Germans' top scorer is Je'Kel Foster, who averages 15.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, and scored a season high 23 points at Malha.
Jerusalem will also be wary of its former player Ricky Paulding (14.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and dangerous guard Jason Gardner (13.0 ppg, 3.6 apg), who scored 20 points when the teams met last month.
Hapoel, which was handed a 20-0 technical win last week after Larissa refused to play in Israel due to security concerns, will be brimming with confidence following Sunday's last-gasp BSL victory over Ironi Nahariya.
"This is a very tough game," said guard Moran Rot, who passed the assist to Yuval Naimi's winning basket againt Nahariya.
"People in Israel tend to underestimate [some] teams because they're unknown in Europe, but this is an excellent side. We are going to win, however, and we will progress."
Meanwhile, Bnei Hasharon will be playing for pride when it hosts Aris Thessaloniki in the Eurocup in Ra'anana on Tuesday.
Following ULEB's decision to punish the team with a 20-0 technical loss, Bnei Hasharon can no longer advance from its group and will now only be hoping to end the competition on a sweet note after last week's unpleasant experience.
The team was stranded in its dressing room for two hours in Ankara last Tuesday after some 3,000 hostile fans stormed the court moments before the tip-off of the encounter against Turk Telekom.
Aris needs to win in Ra'anana to ensure its progress and despite initially considering not coming to the game, arrived in Israel as planned on Monday.
"I was a little sacred about coming here but they said that Tel Aviv is one of the safest cities in the world," Thessaloniki player Keydren Clark said.
"I feel safe," the team's Italian coach Andrea Mazzon said upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport.
"As a father to kids I don't think there should be a game during a war. But as a basketball coach we have to play. The show must go on."
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