Hapoel Jerusalem’s Eurocup hopes came crashing to a disappointing halt on Tuesday night with an 84-70 loss to Cajasol Sevilla at Malha Arena.
Jerusalem’s passage to the Last 16 was all but wrapped up after two dominant victories to open the season. But three losses in four games would follow, culminating with the deflating performance on Tuesday.
Hapoel’s hopes were not extinguished until CEZ Nymburk defeated VEF Riga 90-79 in the Czech Republic, relegating Jerusalem to third place in Group G.
“This is very disappointing,” said Hapoel coach Oded Katash. “We’ve played well enough to advance. We deserve to advance. But Cajasol played really well, they hit some really tough shots, and they deserved to win this game.”
Jason Rich led Hapoel with 17 points on 8-13 shooting, but the rest of his teammates shot only 41 percent from the field.
The Spaniards countered by nailing half of their attempts, and were led by Tariq Kirksay’s 18 points (and eight rebounds).
Elsewhere, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil’s Eurocup season fizzled out with a 91-70 loss at Aris Thessaloniki.
With Jerualem Mayor Nir Barkat looking on from the Malha stands, the game opened ominously for the hosts, who needed nearly four minutes to record their first points.
Brian Randle – who was playing despite injury – picked up two quick fouls, and the visitors took advantage of the resultant lack of size, taking a double-digit lead on three Louis Bullock free throws (16-5).
Sevilla held a 16-point lead and was threatening to run away with the game until Will Solomon hit the hosts’ first three-pointer with five seconds remaining in the quarter, and Hapoel trailed 24-11 at the break with the crowd urging its team on.
But Kirksay nailed a three-pointer of his own to open the second, stemming any momentum that could have been brewing.
Jerusalem’s jumpers eventually began to fall as the quarter wore on, however, and the Reds trailed 31-21 after two Sam Clancy free throws.
Sevilla threatened to break away again, and led 41-26 with under three minutes left in the half.
But a Yuval Naimi three followed by four quick points from Rich cut the deficit to single digits (41-33) for the first time in 15 minutes.
A hard-earned Clancy putback with 10 seconds left in the half further rejuvenated the hosts, who had a hop in their step heading into the locker room down 43-37.
The teams traded buckets to open the third, and a Solomon three cut the deficit to a single possession for the first time since the opening minutes (49-46).
But Hapoel would get no closer, and Kirksay’s layup gave the Spaniards a 62-54 lead heading into the final frame.
A disastrous stretch would ensue for the hosts, with Sevilla scoring 11 points in two minutes, thanks in most part to two long-range Txemi Urtasun threes.
With its Eurocup season ticking away along with the clock, Jerusalem began to settle for contested threes, and whatever swagger was built up in the second and third quarters gave way to hanging heads.
But the hosts put together an 8-2 run capped by a Moshe Mizrahi three, and energy began to flow through Malha once again.
Sevilla began to extend its possessions, making it difficult for the Reds to put together a meaningful run.
They would get to within 11 with a minute remaining, but Solomon forced a three that sailed long, and Jerusalem’s chances of advancing went sailing along with it.
In Thessaloniki, Gilboa maintained a slight edge throughout a tight first half, and led 45-42 at halftime.
But the visitors would implode completely in the third, being outscored 26-10 by Aris and trailing 68-53 heading into a meaningless fourth quarter.
Four players finished with double figures for Gilboa, led by Rodney Green with 14.
Bobby Brown led Aris with 19 points.
Also on Tuesday night, Maccabi Haifa was thrashed at BK Ventspils 99-62,
but still made the Last 16 of the Eurochallenge thanks to Skyliners
Frankfurt’s 72-60 win over Khimik Yuzhny.
Sylven Landesberg led Haifa with 13, while Rashad Anderson paced Ventspils with 23.
Barak Netanya also got blown out while still advancing to the Last 16, falling 84-60 at Turk Telecom.
Tony Youger scored 15 for Netanya, while Sani Becirovic led the Turks with 20 points in the win.