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Katash 311.(Photo by: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
Hapoel J’lem disappoints in Czech Republic
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Hapoel Jerusalem missed a golden opportunity to close in on a place in the Eurocup Last 16 on Tuesday night, losing 73- 67 at CEZ Nymburk in the Czech Republic in its first defeat of the regular season.

Jerusalem entered Tuesday’s encounter with a 2-0 record after surprising Cajasol Sevilla in Spain last week.

However, Hapoel didn’t come close to repeating its form from Spain in Nymburk, commiting 17 turnovers and shooting just 19 of 42 from two-point range in an allaround poor performance.

Nevertheless, Oded Katash’s team remains well placed to finish in the top two in Group G, with Nymburk coming to Malha next week.

“We have a week to prepare for the game at Malha and I’m sure we will play better,” said Katash, who will be expecting his team to defeat the Czechs by more than six points in Jerusalem to claim the tiebreaker.

“The players are very disappointed with their play tonight, but it is only natural that there is an occasional drop in form. Nevertheless, the final score isn’t all bad as our fate is still in our own hands.”

Jason Rich scored 22 points for Hapoel, with Will Solomon adding 11. Former Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv swingman Tre Simmons led Nymburk with 18 points.

Meanwhile, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil’s hopes of advancing to the Eurocup knockout rounds from Group D suffered a significant blow.

After losing to Aris Thessaloniki last week, Gilboa dropped fell its second straight home defeat at Malha Arena on Tuesday, falling 95-86 at the hands of Ukrainian champion BC Azovmash.

The Ukrainians opened a 49- 40 lead by the break and maintained a double-digit margin for much of the second half on the way to a relatively comfortable victory.

Dagan Yavzuri had 18 points for Gilboa – which fell to 1-2 – but Demetrius Alexander was unstoppable for the visitors, scoring 31 points, including five of seven from beyond the arc.

Also Tuesday, Barak Netanya improved to 2-1 in EuroChallenge Group D while Maccabi Haifa fell to 1-1 in Group B.

Netanya beat Turk Telekom 113-89 behind Adrian Banks’s 30 points, with Sani Becirovic scoring 19 for the Turks.

Haifa lost 86-80 to BK Ventspils in Nesher after trailing by double figures for most of the night.

Larry O’Bannon led Haifa with 19 points, with Rashad Anderson scoring 26 points for the Latvians.

At Nymburk, both teams looked hapless in the first period, turning over the ball time and again, and missing easy opportunities under the baskets.

The poor play meant that Jerusalem and Nymburk combined for a mere 23 points in the first 10 minutes, with the Czechs leading 12-11.

Hapoel took the lead at the start of the second period, but a back-and-forth quarter ensued and the visitors led 34-31 at halftime after Nymburk’s Israeli guard Afik Nissim scored at the buzzer.

A Yogev Ohayon three-pointer just over three minutes into the second half gave Hapoel a 45-37 margin, but Jerusalem would completely lose its way once more after that.

Nymburk ended the third quarter with a 15-6 run and led 55-53 with 10 minutes left.

It took Jerusalem almost four minutes to score its first points of the fourth frame and by that stage the Czech champion was ahead by double figures, with Ladislav Sokolovsky’s lay-up opening a 63-53 cushion.

Hapoel looked powerless but continued to fight and Brian Randle’s free-throws brought it within four points (67-63) with just over two minutes to play.

However, Katash’s men couldn’t complete the comeback and dropped to a disappointing defeat.
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