Hapoel Jerusalem kept its Eurocup fate in its own hands after it took a
significant step towards qualification to the Last 32 on Wednesday night,
beating CSU Ploiesti 77-69 in Romania to improve to a 5-4 record in Group
Jerusalem hosts Karsiyaka Izmir of Turkey at Malha Arena next week in
what will be a direct battle for second place. A home win for Igokea
Aleksandrovac (2-7) over Academic Sofia (3-5) late Wednesday could have already
secured Hapoel a top-three finish and progress to the next round with one
regular season game to play.
Josh Duncan had 16 points and nine rebounds
for Hapoel, with Lior Eliyahu and Ronald Dupree scoring 15 points
Alhaji Mohammed led Ploiesti with 23 points.
Jerusalem had a
four-point edge (21- 17) after a tight first period and a threepoint play by
Yotam Halperin took the gap to double-digits (34-24) midway through the second
Hapoel still held an eight-point gap (43-35) at the break and
maintained a slender cushion throughout the third frame, taking a 60-53 lead
into the final 10 minutes.
CSU never gave up the chase and closed to
within three points (67-64) following Mohammed’s triple with 2:23
However, after missing their first nine three-pointers of the
night, Rafi Menko hit a crucial triple for the visitors with 1:39 remaining to
open a six-point margin from which the hosts could not return.
Haifa (6-3) will have to wait until next week to secure the runnersup position
in Group G after suffering a 95-76 defeat at Banvit Bandirma (5-4) of Turkey on
Haifa, which wrapped up its progress to the Last 32
with last week’s 74-72 win over VEF Riga, was hoping to clinch second place in
the group with a game to spare with a win in Turkey.
However, the Greens
were outplayed for much of Wednesday’s encounter, trailing by 15 points at
halftime (52-37) and by as many as 30 points (81-51) early in the fourth
Haifa limited the embarrassment in the closing minutes, but still
suffered a painful defeat after winning six of its previous seven continental
The loss will be especially disconcerting for coach Danny Franco
as it came on the heels of Sunday’s BSL loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv, the team’s
third defeat in its past four league encounters.
Despite the humbling
setback, Haifa will still be confident of qualifying for the next round from
second position with a win over Kalev Tallinn (2-7) at Romema Arena next
Ike Ofoegbu led Haifa with 17 points on Wednesday, with Donta Smith
and Dagan Yavzuri adding 14 points each for the Greens, who will have to manage
without injured starting point guard Moran Roth at least until
Chuck Davis had 20 points to lead Bandirma in victory.