Jerusalem, Haifa progress from second place

Hapoel beats Izmir with another strong performance, Riga comes to Haifa’s rescue after loss to Tallinn.

Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa advanced to the Eurocup Last 32 from the runners-up position on Wednesday night, but did so in almost opposite fashion.
Jerusalem claimed an impressive 79-75 victory over Karsiyaka Izmir at Malha Arena in a direct showdown for second place in Group E. Hapoel recorded its third win in its past four Eurocup games to finish the regular season with a 6-4 record.
Haifa, on the other hand, stumbled over the finish line, losing 75-70 to Kalev Tallinn at home to end Group G in second place at 6-4 despite dropping its final two regular season encounters.
Fortunately for Haifa, VEF Riga came to its rescue, beating Banvit Bandirma of Turkey 91-77 to ensure the Greens remained in the runners-up position behind the perfect Unics Kazan.
Haifa, which was playing without the injured Moran Roth and Brian Randle on Wednesday, has also lost three of its past four BSL games and will be hoping to bounce back when it hosts Jerusalem in league action on Friday in an encounter postponed from Sunday due to the stormy weather.
Jerusalem, which has won seven of its past eight BSL contests, will be brimming with confidence after the triumph over Karsiyaka.
After a tight first half ended in a fivepoint (40-35) Hapoel lead, the hosts pulled ahead late in the third quarter, opening a nine-point gap (61-52) ahead of the final 10 minutes.
However, Izmir would begin the fourth frame with a 12-2 run, capped by a Leo Lyons three-pointer, to move into the lead (64-63). A nervy finish would ensue, but Hapoel would hold on for the win thanks to clutch baskets from Lior Eliyahu and Derwin Kitchen.
Ronald Dupree led five Hapoel players in double figures with 13 points, with Kitchen and Artsiom Parakhouski scoring 12 points each and Josh Duncan and Eliyahu adding 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Jon Diebler led Karsiyaka with 20 points.
Jerusalem will face Olimpija Ljubljana, Budivelnik Kiev and Banvit Bandirma in Group M of the Last 32, which gets underway on January 7. The top two will progress to the eighth-finals.
Earlier Wednesday, Hapoel announced the signing of 20-year-old guard Tom Ma’ayan on a five-year deal.
Ma’ayan joined Seton Hall University last season, but is returning to Israel to fulfill his military requirements with the IDF.
At Romema, Haifa found itself down by as many as 19 points (40-21) and trailed by 15 points (40-25) at the break. The Greens ate away at the deficit in the second half, closing to within three points (73-70) with 45 seconds to play.
However, they would come no closer and dropped to yet another dejecting defeat.
Ben Reis had 18 points for Haifa, with Ike Ofoegbu scoring 16 points. Vlad Moldoveanu led Tallinn with 19 points.
Haifa will face Khimki Moscow and Czech team Nymburk in Group K of the Last 32, as well as one other team yet to be determined.