Another tight and tough loss for Jerusalem

Despite ample opportunity for victory, Hapoel falls to 0-2 in Eurocup with 79-78 home setback to Krasny.

Jerusalem coach Danny Franco  (photo credit: ODED KARNI)
Jerusalem coach Danny Franco
(photo credit: ODED KARNI)
Hapoel Jerusalem dropped to an ultraclose defeat in Eurocup action for a second straight week on Wednesday, losing 79-78 to Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd at the Jerusalem Arena to fall to 0-2 in Group E.
After suffering a frustrating defeat in its regular season opener in Turkey last week, Hapoel was desperate for a win on Wednesday.
Jerusalem continued its encouraging start to the local BSL season on Sunday, edging Hapoel Tel Aviv 81-80 to improve to 3-0 in the Israeli league for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign.
However, despite leading by as many as 12 points late in the third quarter against Volgograd, it capitulated in the fourth frame and allowed the unfancied visitors to eke out an important win.
The defeat was reminiscent of last week’s loss in Turkey to Banvit Bandirma, with Hapoel leading by 11 points at one stage, only to ultimately suffer an 80-76 defeat.
Jerusalem had a chance to win Wednesday’s game in the final seconds, but Tony Gaffney missed his shot under the basket and left Hapoel with plenty of work to do in order to reach the Last 32.
Fortunately for Jerusalem, there are still eight more regular season games to play and four of the group’s six teams will advance to the next stage.
“We were arrogant in the fourth quarter and we paid for it,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco.
“We can’t afford to do that. We were too soft and naive and it is a shame we lost this game. This isn’t how we hoped to begin the regular season, but there are still plenty of games remaining. We have a good team and I believe we will advance from this group.”
Bracey Wright led Jerusalem with 19 points, with Joseph Jones scoring 16 and Donta Smith adding 10 points and 11 rebounds. D.J. Kennedy had 17 points for Volgograd.
The sacking of Volgograd coach, Valentyn Berestnyev, on the eve of the game seemed to re-energize a roster which lost at home to CSU Ploiesti of Romania last week, and the visitors made the most of Jerusalem’s mistakes to take a six-point gap (25-19) into the second period.
A Deandre Liggins three-pointer took the margin to double digits (43-32), but Jerusalem managed to limit the damage, trailing by six points (45-39) at the interval.
After a lax first half, Franco’s halftime talk worked wonders, with Hapoel improving its intensity on defense and execution on offense.
A Wright three tied the score at 50-50, with Derwin Kitchen’s basket capping Jerusalem’s 24-6 start to the third frame to open a 12-point gap (63-51).
Despite Artem Komissarov’s buzzer- beater, the momentum was still with Jerusalem at the start of the fourth period (67-58), only for the hosts to completely lose their way.
Volgograd outscored Jerusalem 14-1 to begin the frame, taking a 72-68 lead following Cuthbert Victor’s points with 4:25 minutes to play.
It took the hosts more than seven minutes to score their first field goal of the fourth quarter, with Jones’s basket tying the score once more (72-72).
The game ultimately came down to the final seconds, with the Russians in front by a single point ahead of Jerusalem’s final possession.
Gaffney reached a comfortable opportunity under the basket with three seconds to play, but he missed his shot and Hapoel slumped to another dejecting Eurocup defeat.
Also Wednesday, Hapoel Holon improved to 2-1 in the BSL with a 71-64 win over Bnei Herzliya. Isaac Rosefelt continued his sensational start to the season by leading Holon with 21 points and 12 rebounds, taking his averages after the first three league games of the season to 15.3 points and 16.0 rebounds.