Hap Jerusalem, Mac Haifa both narrowly triumph

Reds edge Romanian side Ploiesti by two in Eurocup as Greens nip Turkish club Banvit by three.

DONTA SMITH  370 (photo credit: Oded Karni/BSL)
(photo credit: Oded Karni/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa capped a hectic run of games with two more dramatic wins on Wednesday night, with both Israeli clubs improving to 3-1 in their respective Eurocup groups to edge closer to a place in the last-32.
Playing in its fifth game in 10 days, Jerusalem beat CSU Ploiesti of Romania 82-80 at Malha Arena for its fourth win since last Monday.
“This is a very special win for us,” said Jerusalem coach Brad Greenberg. “We have competitive guys and they have the right stuff inside.”
Donta Smith carried Maccabi Haifa to a 72-69 victory over Banvit Bandirma of Turkey at Romema Arena, scoring his team’s final 10 points in the closing 3:16 minutes of the game to clinch a sixth straight win in all competitions.
“There were moments in which we lost our concentration and Banvit is a top team which makes you pay for that,” said Haifa coach Danny Franco.
“We have still got a long way to go before we qualify, but we are doing some nice things. We are progressing with every game and that is the most important thing at this stage of the season.”
At Malha, a Zack Rosen basket opened an early eight-point margin (13-5), but Hapoel was unable to sustain the momentum and led by just three points (17-14) after 10 minutes. Ploiesti completed the comeback in the second quarter and was ahead by two points (39-37) at the interval.
Jerusalem fought back to lead by as many as seven points (55-48) in the third quarter, but yet again it failed to kill off Ploeisti’s challenge and found itself down by two points (64-62) with seven minutes remaining.
There was little to separate the teams for the remainder until a clutch Yotam Halperin three-pointer opened a 77-73 lead with 1:27 to go before Ronald Dupree’s free throws with 4.4 seconds left secured the victory.
Josh Duncan had 19 points for Jerusalem, with Dupree and Halperin scoring 17 points each.
Filip Adamovic led Ploiesti (2-2) with 18 points.
Earlier Wednesday, Banvit got off to the better start in Romema, but it was Haifa which opened a seven-point margin (31-24) midway through the second period thanks to Ike Ofoegbu’s basket.
However, Haifa would score just four points in the final 3:30 minutes of the first half and the hosts held just a twopoint edge (37-35) at the break.
A 16-3 Bandirma run gave the Turks a seven-point advantage (58-51) and the visitors were exactly where they hoped to be with 10 minutes to play (58-53).
But the Greens always remained within striking distance and Ben Rice’s three-pointer tied the score at 62-62 with 5:30 to play before Smith took over the game.
Two consecutive steals and baskets by Smith gave Haifa the lead and his 10thstraight point opened a six-point gap from which Banvit could not return.
Smith ended the night with 20 points, with Brian Randle adding 18 points and seven rebounds. Earl Rowland had 16 points to lead Banvit (2-2).