hapoel jm 298.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem has suffered another setback in its European campaign, going down 66-68 against Lukoil Academic Sofia in a ULEB Cup Group C game. The Israelis fell prey to no other than former player Lamont Jones, who was virtually unstoppable in the final minute of the encounter.
Mario Austin led Hapoel with 22 points and four rebounds, but failed to receive adequate production from his supporting cast, which has put the team in a tough spot. Jerusalem now needs to win all of its remaining group games to advance.
Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir benched regular starter Meir Tapiro yet again, giving veteran Ed Cota the chance to run the point. Tapiro has not started in the team's last few games, raising speculation of a possible departure in coming weeks.
The change in the line-up clearly affected Jerusalem's pick-and-roll game, with the Bulgarians playing solid halfcourt defense in front of a noisy home crowd in Sofia. But Austin kept the visitors in the game with his trademark post play, enabling the reds to make it 32-32 at halftime.
Sofia picked up the tempo in the third quarter, after switching to zone defense and creating quick breaks that led to easy baskets at the other end. Tapiro continued to witness the proceeding from the bench, with Cota turning over the ball on numerous occasions and enabling the hosts to open 49-45 lead entering the final period.
Tamar Slay connected on a long range three-pointer, leading Jerusalem to a quick 5-0 run, which leveled the score at 55-55 midway into the fourth quarter. But Jones made a tough jumper with 10 seconds left to give Sofia a 68-66 lead. Jerusalem had possession toward the end, but Jones made an impressive steal to deny the Israelis in dramatic fashion.