Hap J'lem advance to ULEB Cup quarters

Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the quarterfinals of the ULEB Cup Wednesday night with an 81-75 win.

Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the quarterfinals of the ULEB Cup Wednesday night with an 81-75 win over Belgian champion Euphony Bree at Malha Arena. The capital city hoopsters will face Lottomatica Roma in the two-leg quarters with the first game in Italy on February 28. Roma advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Unics Kazan 74-70 on the road. Jerusalem won the first game in Belgium last week by one point. Hapoel started strong, but Bree was the stronger side for much of the game, until Hapoel came up big down the stretch. Horace Jenkins led the team with 23 points, Mario Austin added 17 and Roger Mason Jr. and Tamar Slay had 12 apiece. Mason also dished out seven assists. "We flat-out outplayed them for 60-70 of the 80 minutes we played," Bree's American coach Chris Finch said afterwards. "At the highest levels, you pay for little mistakes... We shot poorly from the field when we couldn't afford it." Bree didn't hit a field goal in the final three-and-a-half minutes and made only 14-of-23 free throws on the night. Reserve forward James Cantamessa hit five threes on his way to 23 and caused problems for Jerusalem defenders for the first three quarters, but came up empty when it mattered most. The biggest surprise was Bree's 38-year-old forward Roger Huggins, who shot 6-for-7 from the field and drew 10 fouls on his way to 21 points. Huggins, who played half a season for Jerusalem in the past, caused Slay, Ido Kozikaro and Itzik Ohanon to be in foul trouble throughout the second half. "Those that disrespected Bree don't know anything about basketball," Hapoel coach Erez Edelstein said at the end. "Four teams from our [regular season] group reached the quarterfinals," he added as a compliment to his team. The coach explained that part of his team's strategy was to open things up to Huggins and Yves Dupont inside in order to control Julius Jenkins, Travis Conlon and Brian Lynch on the perimeter. The plan worked as the three combined for just 17. Hapoel suffered from ups and downs throughout. In the second quarter it missed nine straight shots as Bree went on an 11-0 run to take a 32-27 lead. Three threes by Horace Jenkins, Matan Naor and Meir Tapiro, whose triple came after Austin stole and in-bounds pass, put the hosts back on top before Dupont and Cantamessa gave Bree a 42-40 halftime. Hapoel struggled out of the gate in the second half and watched Bree build a 54-42 advantage as a Horace Jenkins three-pointer was the team's only points during the first six-plus minutes. A frustrated Jenkins took on the entire Bree defense and started to get his team some points. Austin trimmed the lead to three, but Cantamessa scored seven unanswered points to give the momentum back to the visitors. Then Jenkins stole the ball from Bree reserve Nate Reinking and drew a break-away foul. His free throws and then a Tapiro basket helped end the quarter with Bree's lead down to 62-58. Slay drilled a three-pointer early in the fourth to put Hapoel on top. The lead would sway back and forth for much of the period and was tied on aggregate with three minutes to play. Huggins put his team ahead 74-71 a minute later, but Naor tied the score with a three with 1:48 remaining. Bree lost the ball on its next possession and Huggins made only one from the line after that. Jenkins's jumper with 32.4 seconds put Hapoel ahead 76-75 and Bree's Jenkins had his shot blocked by his Hapoel namesake on the ensuing play. Bree fouled Mason, who made a pair of free throws and then Conlan's penetration came up empty as the hosts and their fans began to celebrate the win and spot in the next round.