Now-or-never for Hap J’lem in Last 32 quest

Reds visit Romania looking to stem the bleeding of recent Eurocup slump; Mac Haifa takes on Banvit.

Hapoel Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After losing three of its past four Eurocup games, Hapoel Jerusalem enters Wednesday night’s encounter at CSU Ploiesti in Romania in dire need of a victory to boost its hopes of qualifying for the Last 32.
Jerusalem dropped to an 85-73 defeat at group-leader Khimki Moscow last week, falling to a 4-4 record after winning three of its first four games.
A triumph in Romania combined with a home win for Igokea Aleksandrovac (2-6) over Academic Sofia (3-5) will see Hapoel secure its progress with one regular season game to play.
However, a defeat on Wednesday would seriously complicate Jerusalem’s situation ahead of its final Group E game at home to Karsiyaka Izmir (5-3) next week.
Hapoel edged Ploiesti 82-80 when they met at Malha Arena last month and will be expecting an even tougher time in Romania after CSU snapped a four-game losing streak with a victory over Igokea last week.
“Clearly we will be under pressure,” said Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu, who had 18 points in last week’s loss to Khimki. “This is a very important game for the remainder of our continental campaign. Fortunately, we have had two days to prepare for it as we played in the BSL on Sunday.
“There will be no excuse if we lose, but it will surely be a difficult game.”
Jerusalem crushed Barak Netanya 97-70 on Sunday for its seventh BSL win in its past eight games to improve to a league-best record of 7-3.
Ploiesti has won just one of its four Eurocup home games so far, but coach Vladimir Arnautovic is expecting a tight encounter on Wednesday.
“It’s a decisive game for our team,” he said. “We need a victory by at least three points to reach a good position before the last round.
“All the other games are also very important, but first we must win against Hapoel. It will probably be a very close game, but we are playing at home, in front of our fans, so our guests will be put under pressure.”
Maccabi Haifa, which wrapped up its progress to the Last 32 with last week’s 74-72 win over VEF Riga, will be hoping to clinch second place in Group G with a victory at Banvit Bandirma of Turkey on Wednesday.
Haifa (6-2), which can also secure the runners-up position should it lose by two points or less or beat Kalev Tallinn next week, has won six of its past seven Eurocup games, but lost in three of its last four BSL contests.