Hapoel evens Eurocup record with win

Two days after upending Maccabi, Jerusalem easily handles Cibona 89-73.

BRIAN RANDLE of Hapoel Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
BRIAN RANDLE of Hapoel Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
Hapoel Jerusalem got its Eurocup campaign rolling on Tuesday night, beating Cibona Zagreb 89-73 at Malha Arena to improve to 1-1 in Group A.
After losing its continental opener at BC Donetsk last week, Jerusalem desperately needed a win on Tuesday, and despite struggling in the first period, it raced ahead in the second quarter, effectively securing the win with a 20-0 run.
It was just a few days ago that Oded Katash’s position as Jerusalem coach was in question, but the 78-64 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday followed by Tuesday’s victory over Cibona guarantees that no one can dream of replacing the coach anymore, and expectations for the remainder of the season are as high as they were when it began.
“I think we won both our games this week through our defensive play,” Katash said. “We played with the right energies and players who needed time to settle are finally proving their potential. We will bring in another guard and we will be fine.”
Hapoel hosts BCM Gravelines of France next week, and Katash knows that it will be crucial for his team to avoid defeat at home throughout the regular season if it is to finish in the top two and advance to the last 16.
“We were drawn into a very tough group,” Katash said. “We first and foremost need to make sure we win our home games and that will not be easy next week as Gravelines is in my opinion the best team in the group.”
Brian Randle led Jerusalem with 16 points on Tuesday, with Jarvis Varnado adding 13 for Hapoel, which shot 63 percent (31 of 49) from two-point range.
Andrija Zizic had 16 points for Cibona, which dropped to 0-2.
It initially seemed like it would be a long night for the fans at Malha, with both teams looking nervous and confused at the start of the game.
A Dan Grunfeld basket ensured Jerusalem had the edge (19-16) after a tight first 10 minutes, setting the stage for an Hapoel run at the start of the second period.
While Cibona continued to struggle to find its range, Jerusalem began to fire on all cylinders and opened a double-figure margin within two minutes.
Guni Izraeli came off the bench to lead Jerusalem’s surge, scoring seven straight points at one stage to give the hosts a 28-16 gap.
Cibona couldn’t buy a basket and Brian Randle’s steal and layup capped a 20-0 run, increasing the margin to 19 points (35-16) midway through the second quarter.
Tomislav Zubcic’s three-pointer to end the first half cut Cibona’s deficit to 14 points (47-33), and the visitors managed to close to within seven points (60-53) with just under three minutes to play in the third frame.
However, Zagreb never really threatened to complete a comeback, with Yuval Naimi laying in two of his 12 points to complete a 7-0 Hapoel run to end the quarter.
That extended the hosts’ lead to a comfortable 14 points (67-53) they easily maintained for their first European win of the season.