Hapoel still leads group, but feeling heat

Jerusalem drops close one, will host do-or-die; Gilboa/Galil crashes out of contention

Hapeol Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
Hapeol Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s situation in Eurocup Group G was seriously complicated on Tuesday night after it fell to a disappointing 74-71 defeat at VEF Riga.
Jerusalem could have advanced to the Last 16 of the Eurocup with a victory in Latvia, but its defeat, coupled with CEZ Nymburk’s surprising 89-68 win at Cajasol Sevilla, means that next week’s game against the Spaniards at Malha Arena will be a direct battle for a top-two finish and a place in the next stage.
Jerusalem played perhaps its worst game of the season in Riga, especially offensively, shooting 18 of 41 (43 percent) from twopoint range and five of 20 from beyond the arc, while committing 16 turnovers.
“We should have won this game,” Katash said. “We missed a great opportunity. Riga defended well, but we weren’t fluent enough on offense. There are days like this and you need to accept them.”
Will Solomon led Jerusalem with 24 points and nine rebounds, while a hobbling Brian Randle and Jason Rich added 14 points each.
Dairis Bertans had 20 points for Riga, which shot just 39 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil lost all hope of advancing to the Last 16 of the Eurocup on Tuesday, losing 84-73 to Cedevita Zagreb at Gan Ner.
Jack McClinton had 15 points for Gilboa, with Tyler Wilkerson adding 12 points and eight rebounds.
Marino Bazdaric led the winners with 17 points.
In Riga, a Kaspars Berzins three-pointer gave the hosts an early 13-5 lead, but after 10 minutes the score was tied at 23-23.
Hapoel carried the momentum into the second period and Sam Clancy’s free throws opened a 37-27 margin.
Rich’s half-court shot maintained Jerusalem’s cushion (40-33) at the interval, but Riga began the third period with an 11-2 run, and with 10 minutes to go the hosts led 60-54.
Jerusalem continued to struggle on the offensive end in the fourth frame, but Riga was equally poor and the game would not be decided until the final seconds.
The hosts looked to be in complete control with just over a minute to play, leading by six points (71-65) against Hapoel’s impotent offense.
All of a sudden, a Rich three-point play was followed by a steal and a layup by Solomon, and with 53 seconds to play Jerusalem trailed by just a single point (71-70).
Hapoel could not complete the comeback, though, with Berzins hitting a three in Riga’s subsequent possession to break Jerusalem hearts.
Barak Netanya missed a golden opportunity to secure its progress to the last 16 of the EuroChallenge on Tuesday, losing 70-64 to the Norrkoping Dolphins in Sweden.
Netanya’s record dropped to 3-2, but is still well placed and will have its fate in its own hands next week Adrian Banks had 20 points for Netanya, with Elton Brown adding 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Joakim Kjellbom led the Swedes with 27 points.
Maccabi Haifa improved to 3-1 in Group B with an 81-77 win at Khimik Yuzhny on Tuesday, closing in on a place in the last 16.
Haifa has struggled desperately in the BSL in recent weeks, losing five straight.

However, it has found some consolation in continental play, and can book its place in the next stage with a win over Yuzhny in Nesher on Thursday in the game which was originally postponed after the Ukrainians had their passports stolen last month.
Marco Killingsworth had 25 points and 13 rebounds for Haifa, with Sylven Landesberg adding 17 points.

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