Hapoel Jerusalem secured its place in the regular season of the Eurocup with an 88-79 home win over French side Roanne Basket on Wednesday, but Guy Goodes' team was made to work for its victory and won't find it any easier when the group stage begins at the end of November.
The Israelis had lost 83-81 in the first leg of the qualifier in France last week and came in needing to beat Roanne by at least three points to qualify.
After a slow start in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the hosts hit back with a 10-0 run to start the second quarter and managed to hold on to its lead despite hints of a Roanne comeback.
"We knew Roanne is a good team at home and maybe less good away. But it is also a team which never gives up," Hapoel coach Guy Goodes said after the game. "It wasn't easy. The Eurocup is much more physical than our league."
Roanne coach Jean Denys Choulet was disappointed with his team's performance over the two games.
"I think they made the difference at home because we didn't take the first game seriously," he said.
Once again Tre Simmons was key for Jerusalem, scoring 22 points and grabbing five rebounds. Uchenna Nsonwu chipped in a team-high 21 for the visitors.
Hapoel started poorly, but moved ahead with just over a minute left in the first quarter when a Simmons layup resulted in a 18-17 lead.
But the advantage was to be short-lived, with the home team's defensive frailties coming to the fore. It culminated with a Yogev Ohayon missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the French side was ahead 22-18 after 10 minutes.
Jerusalem came out rejuvenated after the break, scoring the first 10 points of the second quarter to storm in front 27-22.
At last the Israelis began taking control at both ends of the floor.
Dijon Thompson showed some fierce defensive focus while Brandon Hunter's beef in the paint was just what Goodes had been hoping for when he brought the 29-year-old power forward to the capital earlier this month.
After Kevin Pinkney scored on a skillful alley-oop, Jerusalem was up by 11 points (45-34) with 2:40 left in the half and Choulet called a time-out.
The visiting Frenchmen responded adequately, but a missed three-pointer by Amagou Pape-Philippe on the buzzer summed up the half, which ended with Jerusalem ahead 49-39.
Hapoel pushed on throughout the third frame, holding off Rouanne and leading 72-62 with 10 minutes to play.
Jerusalem was unable to dominate for much of the final stanza, and the visitors closed the gap to only five points (79-74) with just under four minutes to play.
But just when it looked like Roanne could make things difficult for its opponent, the Israelis showed their power and authority, while the French side missed too many of its final chances.
Ralph Mims's wayward three-point attempt with 31 seconds on the clock left Jerusalem six points ahead, just enough of a comfortable margin to go on and claim the win while also clinching a spot in the next stage.