Hapoel Jerusalem facing early Eurocup exit

Reds drop to fifth defeat in six games, falling for third time at home with loss to Turkey’s Bandirma.

Hapoel Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s hopes of qualifying for the Eurocup Last 32 suffered a significant blow on Wednesday night following another dejecting home defeat.
Hapoel dropped to an 82-78 loss to Banvit Bandirma of Turkey at the Jerusalem Arena, falling to 1-5 in regular season Group E.
Jerusalem yet again entered the closing stages of a continental contest with everything to play for. But it once more failed to clinch a win and is on the verge of being knocked out of the competition.
The top four sides in the sixteam group will advance to the next round, but Hapoel currently finds itself two games behind fourth place with just four regular season games to play.
Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd moved tied with CSU Ploiesti at 3-3 after claiming a surprise 96-79 road win over the latter in Romania.
Complicating matters even further is the fact that Jerusalem plays three of its final four encounters on the road and could miss out on qualification even if it wins them all.
“We were very determined, but were still unable to control the game,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco. “As long as we have a chance we won’t drop our heads and we will try again to win next week.”
Bracey Wright led Hapoel with 21 points, while Lior Eliyahu added 15 points and Donta Smith contributed 13 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Chuck Davis and Earl Rowland had 20 and 19 points, respectively, for Banvit, which improved to 5-1.
Hapoel displayed the defensive intensity it so desperately lacked in its previous games at the start of the night, holding Banvit to just five points in the first six minutes of the contest. However, the hosts couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end and the Turks soon closed the gap.
A Davis three-pointer capped a 10-2 run to give the visitors their first lead of the night (15-14) and Bandirma had a three-point edge (21-18) entering the second quarter.
Rowland made sure there was nothing to separate the teams at the break (39-39) with his lay-up to end the half and the visitors led by as many as five points (48- 43) early in the third frame.
However, Wright would ensure Hapoel had momentum on its side entering the final quarter, scoring 11 points in the final four minutes of the third period to give his side a four-point cushion (60-56).
Bandirma opened the fourth period with an 8-0 run to move back in front, but Smith finally scored Hapoel’s first points of the quarter after more than threeand- a-half minutes (64-63) and a tight finish would ensue.
Smith’s free throws gave Jerusalem a slender lead (72-71) entering the final two minutes, but Banvit would score the subsequent six points.
By the time Smith netted Hapoel’s next basket with 35 seconds to play to make it 77-74, Bandirma was already firmly in control of the outcome.