State Cup Hoops: Hapoel Jerusalem through to semis

Hapoel advances despite losing 79-77 to Bnei Hasharon in Ra'anana.

Hapoel Jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Hapoel Jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Despite losing 79-77 to Bnei Hasharon in Ra'anana, Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the semifinals of the State Cup on Saturday thanks to its nine-point victory in the first leg. Hapoel's 83-74 win at Malha Arena two weeks ago was never really under any threat on Saturday, with Jerusalem never trailing by more than four points during the tight encounter. "I have a lot of respect for Bnei Hasharon and I'm very proud that we managed to get the better of them in our current state," Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir said. Erez Markovitch, who was standing in for the injured Jamie Arnold, led the visitors with 22 points and nine rebounds, with Timmy Bowers adding 14 points. Jason Williams scored 22 points for the hosts, with Meir Tapiro adding 13 points against his former team. On Sunday, the three remaining quarterfinals will be completed. Maccabi Tel Aviv will take a nine-point lead to Hapoel Galil Elyon and will be expecting to advance despite the absence of Will Bynum. Ironi Nahariya will try to erase an 18-point deficit when it hosts Hapoel Afula/Gilboa. Nahariya was stunned by Afula/Gilboa's inferior roster in the first leg, losing 96-78, and will need a remarkable turnaround on Sunday if it's to advance to the last four. Hapoel Holon should cruise into the semifinals on Sunday after defeating Ironi Ramat Gan by 29 points (87-58) in the first leg at home. After a nervous start in Ra'anana by both teams, Bowers scored from beyond the arc to give the visitors a 3-0 lead. Three points would prove to be the biggest margin either side managed to build until the final seconds of the first period, with the lead exchanging hands numerous times during the first 10 minutes of the encounter. Jerusalem would be the first to finally open a meaningful advantage in the game, after Guy Pnini (14 points), who began his career with Bnei Hasharon, scored a three-pointer at the buzzer to give his side a 26-21 first period lead. Bowers scored at the start of the second quarter to extend the margin to seven points (28-21), but an 11-0 hosts' run would turn the game on its head and seemingly put Bnei Hasharon in the driving seat. Williams, who scored 15 points until the break, was unstoppable and the hosts were within six points of overturning their first leg deficit (32-28). Hapoel would, however, tighten its defense in the final five minutes of the first half and was ahead by seven points at the interval (43-36), scoring 15 of the last 19 points of the quarter. Bnei Hasharon's 9-2 run in the first two minutes of the second half erased Jerusalem's first half lead (45-45), but the visitors replied with a devastating 20-5 run (65-50) that killed any hope the hosts may have had of overturning their first leg loss. Bowers, Sharon Sasson and Dror Hajaj scored with ease at one end of the court and stopped Bnei Hasharon from closing the deficit at the other end. Jerusalem, however, only led by seven points (66-59) at the end of the quarter after Erez Katz beat the buzzer from mid-court. Katz's incredible basket shifted the momentum and a three-point move by Ousmane Cisse tied the score (70-70). Bnei Hasharon would, however, not manage to take the lead until the final minute of the game and for a second straight year was knocked out of the cup by Jerusalem.