Hap J’lem picks up crucial victory in Romania

Reds in much better position to progress in Eurocup; already advanced Mac Haifa loses.

Hapoel Jerusalem kept its Eurocup fate in its own hands after it took a significant step towards qualification to the Last 32 on Wednesday night, beating CSU Ploiesti 77-69 in Romania to improve to a 5-4 record in Group E.
Jerusalem hosts Karsiyaka Izmir of Turkey at Malha Arena next week in what will be a direct battle for second place. A home win for Igokea Aleksandrovac (2-7) over Academic Sofia (3-5) late Wednesday could have already secured Hapoel a top-three finish and progress to the next round with one regular season game to play.
Josh Duncan had 16 points and nine rebounds for Hapoel, with Lior Eliyahu and Ronald Dupree scoring 15 points each.
Alhaji Mohammed led Ploiesti with 23 points.
Jerusalem had a four-point edge (21- 17) after a tight first period and a threepoint play by Yotam Halperin took the gap to double-digits (34-24) midway through the second quarter.
Hapoel still held an eight-point gap (43-35) at the break and maintained a slender cushion throughout the third frame, taking a 60-53 lead into the final 10 minutes.
CSU never gave up the chase and closed to within three points (67-64) following Mohammed’s triple with 2:23 remaining.
However, after missing their first nine three-pointers of the night, Rafi Menko hit a crucial triple for the visitors with 1:39 remaining to open a six-point margin from which the hosts could not return.
Maccabi Haifa (6-3) will have to wait until next week to secure the runnersup position in Group G after suffering a 95-76 defeat at Banvit Bandirma (5-4) of Turkey on Wednesday evening.
Haifa, which wrapped up its progress to the Last 32 with last week’s 74-72 win over VEF Riga, was hoping to clinch second place in the group with a game to spare with a win in Turkey.
However, the Greens were outplayed for much of Wednesday’s encounter, trailing by 15 points at halftime (52-37) and by as many as 30 points (81-51) early in the fourth period.
Haifa limited the embarrassment in the closing minutes, but still suffered a painful defeat after winning six of its previous seven continental games.
The loss will be especially disconcerting for coach Danny Franco as it came on the heels of Sunday’s BSL loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv, the team’s third defeat in its past four league encounters.
Despite the humbling setback, Haifa will still be confident of qualifying for the next round from second position with a win over Kalev Tallinn (2-7) at Romema Arena next week.
Ike Ofoegbu led Haifa with 17 points on Wednesday, with Donta Smith and Dagan Yavzuri adding 14 points each for the Greens, who will have to manage without injured starting point guard Moran Roth at least until January.
Chuck Davis had 20 points to lead Bandirma in victory.