Basketball: It's make or break time for Hapoel

Jerusalem is in a three-way tie with Zadar and Unics Kazan for second place in Group I of the ULEB Cup.

Hapoel Jerusalem 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem's hopes of progressing in the ULEB Cup hang by a thread and Tuesday's game against Zadar in Croatia could make or break its European campaign. Jerusalem is in a three-way tie with Zadar and Unics Kazan for second place in Group I, with the top three teams in the group and the five best fourth-place sides overall qualifying for the elimination rounds. A win against Zadar would all but clinch Hapoel's place in the next round, but a defeat would have the exact opposite effect. Jerusalem enters the game at the lowest point of its season so far. The team, which is 0-9 on the road in all competitions, was humbled by 53 points at Kazan last week and suffered its first home defeat of the season against Ironi Ashkelon on Saturday. Star center Jamie Arnold is still injured and the side's only two remaining foreigners, Ramel Curry and Noel Felix, have contributed practically nothing to the team in recent weeks. "Our situation isn't easy. We haven't looked good recently," forward Guy Pnini said. "We can't afford to drop our heads. There are 1,001 reasons for our situation, but I don't want to go into them." Jerusalem edged Zadar 84-83 behind 26 points by Arnold when the teams first met this season at the Malha Arena, with Marcus Slaughter hitting a free-throw with 0.4 seconds to play. Slaugher has since been ejected from the club after involvement in a controversial incident at a Strasbourg hotel. Sharon Sasson, who scored 35 points in Hapoel's loss on Saturday, will likely miss the game after injuring his hand against Ashkelon, but coach Dan Shamir is determined not to use his desperately short roster as an excuse. "I don't want to talk about our injuries or other stuff which is affecting us. I don't believe in that. We need to cope with whatever has happened and prepare for the game with what we have," Shamir said. Zadar, which is a perfect 4-0 at home, thrashed Den Bosch 84-65 in its last game and has won three of its last four encounters in the ULEB Cup. Corey Brewer leads the team with 15.6 points per game, with Todor Gecevski (13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Shamell Stallworth (12.5 ppg) and Julius Johnson (11 ppg) also averaging double figures. "We're in a tough situation, but we must put everything behind us," Timmy Bowers said. "We're coming into this game with our backs against the wall." Also Tuesday, Hapoel Galil Elyon, which has lost any chance of progressing in the ULEB Cup, will be looking to snap its five-game losing streak when it hosts KK Buducnost in Group E.