Last-second shot lifts Hapoel

Roger Mason Jr. drilled a three-pointer with time running out to give Hapoel Jerusalem a 69-68 win.

tapiro hapoel 88 (photo credit: )
tapiro hapoel 88
(photo credit: )
Roger Mason Jr. drilled a three-pointer with time running out to give Hapoel Jerusalem a 69-68 win over Euphony Bree on Wednesday night in their ULEB Cup playoff game. Hapoel will host the Belgian champs next Wednesday at Malha for the return leg. The aggregate winner will advance to the quarterfinals, where they will face either Unics Kazan or Lottomatica Roma. The Italians won the first leg 91-86 at home on Tuesday. Despite the victory, the performance was not one to be remembered. Hapoel shot 13-of-31 from the free throw line (41.9%), committed 18 turnovers, dished six assists and allowed their opponents to control the pace for much of the game. That resulted in a 14-0 Bree run in the third period that nearly saw the game slip away. Horace Jenkins led Jerusalem with 23, but scored just five in the second half. He also had five turnovers and just two assists. Mason added 17, but they were the only two players in double figures. "People who thought Bree was a pushover got their answer," Hapoel coach Erez Edelstein told the team's Web site afterwards. "We played smart in the first half, but there were a lot of missed free throws. Bree controlled the tempo in the third quarter. "That we won shows character. We're happy to head back to Malha after six road games. I believe that with our fans' support, we'll win, but it won't be easy." The star of the game was Bree's Bryan Lynch, who always seemed to be at the right place at the right time - fitting for a player who dates tennis star Kim Clijsters. Lynch scored 24 on 11-of-16 shooting and added 15 rebounds and three steals. Former Jerusalem big man Roger Huggins was effective to the tune of 12 points and four assists in 26 minutes. The 38-year-old Englishman was also responsible for foul trouble among his Hapoel counterparts with 10 fouls drawn. After a slow first few minutes, Edelstein put Meir Tapiro in for Tamar Slay and the move reaped instant dividends. Hapoel scored five points within a minute and built a small lead by the end of the first quarter. Back-to-back Mason and Jenkins threes put the visitors up 26-18 early in the second period. A technical foul on Bree coach Chris Finch helped Jerusalem build a 12-point lead, before Huggins and Lynch trimmed the gap to 43-36 at halftime. Mason made a three early in the third, but then Hapoel went scoreless for nearly seven minutes as Bree reeled off 14 unanswered points for a 52-46 lead. Bree center Yves Dupont came up big with a pair blocks on regular season ULEB Cup MVP Mario Austin during the run. However Jerusalem never quit and Mason and Slay drilled back-to-back threes at the end of the third to tie things at 53. Missed Hapoel free throws and efficient play from Huggins and Lynch soon had the hosts on top 59-54, but a Matan Naor three put Hapoel ahead a minute later. The lead would switch sides a few more times until the final minute. After Dupont made it 68-64, Austin's basket inside closed the gap to two. Travis Conlan held the ball for a three and missed with 12 seconds left, Dupont's follow bounced to Tapiro, who raced downcourt and spotted a wide-open Mason in the corner for the game-winner. "It was a tough game," Mason summed up. "We didn't show up in the third quarter and we didn't play our game. You've got to remember that we're only half-way there," he said.