(photo credit: FIBA EUROPE Web site)
Hapoel Jerusalem has another long Eurocup campaign to look forward to after
progressing to the group stage of the competition on Tuesday night with an 84-73
victory over Belgacom Liege in the second leg of the qualifying round at Malha
Jerusalem entered the return leg with a three-point lead after
last week’s 62- 59 victory in Belgium and was never in any danger of losing its
first home game of the season.
Liege’s only lead of the night was at 2- 0
after 20 seconds. But Hapoel quickly seized control of the encounter, opening a
double-figure margin it would hold for the majority of the game.
play was erratic at times, but the squad was dominant enough to get its fans –
seeing their team for the first time this year – excited about the coming
Oded Katash’s team showed plenty of potential both offensively
Jerusalem hit 65.9 percent of its two-point attempts and
seemed able to stop Liege at will.
“Considering this was our first home
game we did well,” said Katash, whose team will begin the group stage on
November 16. “I think our defense won us the game.”
Brian Randle led the
hosts with 16 points, with Jason Rich adding 15 and Will Solomon scoring 13
points on his return to Malha after more than six years.
Sam Clancy had
12 points, while Uri Kukia grabbed 11 rebounds in a trademark defensive
Michael Jenkins led Liege with 19 points.
arrived at Malha just minutes before the tip-off, mistakenly believing the game
was set to start an hour later than scheduled.
That left the Belgians
with little time to warm-up and it showed at the beginning of the
Rich scored Hapoel’s first seven points of the night and his
three-pointer gave the hosts an early 7-2 lead. Another jumper by the American
guard midway through the first period extended Jerusalem’s margin to
double-digits (15- 5), but Hapoel would take its foot off the gas after that and
Guy Muya capped a 10-2 Liege run to end the quarter to bring the visitors within
one possession after 10 minutes (23-20).
Len Matela’s basket to start the
second period cut the deficit to one, but Hapoel would go on another run,
leading 34-25 after a Dion Dowell dunk.
Once more, however, Katash’s men
allowed Liege back into the game, with a Jenkins lay-up closing the gap to
Jerusalem took a 43-38 lead into the second half and quickly
strengthened its position. An 8-0 run to start the third quarter gave Hapoel a
comfortable lead once more, with Liege taking almost five minutes to score its
first points of the half.
Jerusalem was in complete control after that,
holding at least an eight point lead until the end of the encounter.
64-49 margin with 10 minutes to play ensured Hapoel could cruise in the final
quarter on its way to clinching a place in the group stage of the Eurocup for
the seventh time in the last eight years.