Hap J’lem retains fighting chance by beating Prienai

J'lem improved to 2-3 in Group A, will have to beat CEZ Nymburk in Czech Republic to have chance of progressing to the last-16.

Hapoel Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem will have its fate in its own hands entering the final game of the Eurocup regular season next week after beating BC Prienai of Lithuania 92-79 at Malha Arena on Wednesday night.
Jerusalem improved to 2-3 in Group A and will have to beat CEZ Nymburk in the Czech Republic next Wednesday to have any chance of progressing to the last-16 for the first time in three years.
Should Budivelnik Kiev beat Prienai on the road in their final game, Hapoel will need to defeat Nymburk by 18 points or more in order to claim the tiebreaker over the Czechs and climb up to second place in the group.
If Prienai beats Kiev and Jerusalem gets the better of Nymburk than all four teams in Group A will finish with a 3-3 record, meaning overall point differential will determine which two sides advance to the last-16.
Hapoel would then need the margin of its victory combined with that of Prienai’s to reach at least 27 points to progress.
Jerusalem remained in the hunt for a place in the next stage on Wednesday after one of its better performances of the season.
“We were composed and aggressive for 40 minutes and the players deserve every credit,” said Jerusalem coach Sharon Drucker. “I really enjoyed watching the guys fight tonight.”
The hosts had a 25-21 lead after 10 minutes and the gap reached double-digits with 3:29 to play in the first half following an Elishay Kadir basket.
Craig Smith’s buzzer-beater gave Jerusalem a 51-39 margin at the break and Courtney Fells’ basket early in the third frame took the gap to 16 points (55-39).
Prienai was desperate to at least claim the tiebreaker over Hapoel by not losing by 13 points or more and it closed back to within eight points (62- 54) with two minutes remaining in the period.
However, Jerusalem ended the quarter with a 10-2 run and held a promising 72-56 cushion with 10 minutes to play.
The hosts looked to have no chance of winning by the desired margin after Prienai cut the gap to eight points with 18 seconds left.
However, Fells scored a speedy five points, including a three-pointer as time expired, which could be decisive when all is said and done next week.
Fells ended the game with 25 points, hitting 11 of 13 field goal attempts, as well as registering seven rebounds and five assists.
Smith added 18 points for Hapoel, with Siim-Sander Vene leading Prienai with 18 points.
“Coach just told me to be aggressive today and attack the basket and not settle for jump shots,” Fells said. “We all have to come ready to play every day and if we play like tonight good things will happen to us."