Eurocup Hoops: Hap J’lem forced to fight into Last 16

69-64 loss to Valencia makes the road for Goodes’s crew more difficult.

hapoel jerusalem yogev ohayon 311 (photo credit: Roi Levy)
hapoel jerusalem yogev ohayon 311
(photo credit: Roi Levy)
Hapoel Jerusalem failed to secure top position in its Eurocup Last 16 group on Tuesday night, but will still have its fate in its own hands when it enters next week’s final group game at Galatasaray.
Jerusalem could have clinched first place and a quarterfinal berth with a win over Valencia at Malha Arena, but the Spaniards led throughout the final three periods to claim a well-deserved 69-64 victory.
Despite trailing by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, Hapoel entered the fourth period down by just a single point. But the hosts failed to complete their comeback, and fell to a disappointing defeat which complicates their situation.
A victory over Galatasary next Tuesday will guarantee Jerusalem a place in the last eight, with the team to advance regardless of its result in Turkey should Valencia claim a home win over Unics Kazan, which beat the Turks 92-89 on Tuesday.
Only a Hapoel loss combined with a Kazan win will deny the Israelis a place in the quarterfinals.
“ We didn’t play well tonight,” Hapoel coach Guy Goodes admitted. “We didn’t get into the game and Valencia deserves credit for its strong defense.
However, we are pleased with the final margin of defeat because it could have ended far worse, which would have taken our fate out of our hands.”
Jerusalem scored only 21 of 57 shots from the field and got little contribution from Yuval Naimi and Tre Simmons, who despite playing for much of the game, combined for just 13 points.
Kevinn Pinkney led the team with 15 points and six rebounds, with Pooh Jeter and Brandon Hunter adding 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Thomas Kelati scored 17 points for Valencia, including five three-pointers, with Kosta Perovic and Nando De Colo contributing 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“We only made three turnovers in the first half, but lost seven balls in the third period which allowed Hapoel to get back into the game,” Valencia coach Neven Spahija said.
“When we found our rhythm in the fourth quarter we won the game. We were the better team tonight over the 40 minutes. This game was very important but the last group game is just as important.
 “We need to try and win our last game for us and also for Hapoel,” added Spahija, who coached Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2006/07 season and became good friends with Goodes, his assistant at the time.
Hunter scored the first points of the night, but Valencia soon found its footing and took the lead.
Two three-pointers in quick succession by Pinkney put the hosts in front at 18-13, but Valencia’s quality was clear for all to see from the start and Hapoel led by just one point (21-20) after 10 minutes.
The visitors dominated the start of the second period, beginning it with a 12-1 run to open a double-digit margin.
Kelati was given time and space from beyond the arc and he made Hapoel pay.
His third triple of the quarter gave the Spaniards a 32-22 gap, and with Jerusalem failing to score a fieldgoal for nearly six minutes, Valencia had a stranglehold on the encounter.
A Jeter jumper cut Hapoel’s deficit to 10 points (43-33) at the break, but Spahija’s men, who hit a remarkable nine of 18 three-point attempts in the first half, began the third period with five straight points to open up a 48-33 lead, their biggest of the night.
Just when it seemed Hapoel might be losing touch with the Spaniards, Goodes sent his players to pressure Valencia and the hosts mounted a valiant comeback.
A Simmons three was followed by seven straight points from Jeter, and in less than three minutes Jerusalem closed the gap to 49-45.
Valencia scored just six points in nearly eight minutes and Hapoel trailed by one point at the start the fourth period after a Naimi lay-up.
Hapoel has several opportunities to take the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but poor decision making combined with good defensive play by Valencia kept the local fans frustrated.
The Spaniards made the most of Jerusalem’s offensive rot andestablished a double-figure gap once again, with a De Colothree-pointer giving the team a 65-55 advantage midway through theperiod.
Hapoel took more than six minutes to score its first field-goal of thequarter, but Simmons’s fortuitous three was too little too late forJerusalem and its Eurocup fate will be determined in its final groupgame next week.