ULEB Cup: Hapoel J'lem defeats Ventspils, reaches last 8

The final score fails to tell the story of the game and doesn't do justice to Jerusalem's dominance.

Hapoel Jerusalem 298.88 (photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Hapoel Jerusalem 298.88
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Hapoel Jerusalem cruised to the quarterfinals of the ULEB Cup Tuesday night, outplaying BK Ventspils in Latvia and comfortably winning the second leg 73-62. Jerusalem had a 15-point cushion from the first leg in Israel, but was never in danger of losing the game or the tie. The final score fails to tell the story of the game and doesn't do justice to Jerusalem's dominance. A 20-0 Hapoel run that began in the final minutes of the first quarter gave the side a 15-point lead. That stunned the locals and allowed Hapoel to breeze through the remainder of the game. "I'm extremely happy that we finished off the job in the first half," Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir said. "We scored 45 points in the first half and that won us the game. Our 15-point lead from the first leg in Malha was very important to us. We opened a 10-point lead in the second period and that broke our opponent's spirits." Hapoel will face FMP Zeleznik in the last eight after the Serbians defeated Gran Canaria 70-64 on Tuesday, completing a double win over the Spaniards. "Zeleznik is a typical Yugoslav team," Shamir said. "In these stages of the competition you obviously need to excel. We will need to play extremely well to win the tie." Hapoel will host Zeleznik in the first leg on February 27 and will travel to Belgrade for the second leg on March 6. Mario Austin led Hapoel on Tuesday with 22 points and seven rebounds, despite only playing for 25 minutes. Timmy Bowers added 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, with Meir Tapiro contributing 12 points and 12 rebounds. "We were well prepared for the game," Tapiro said. "We knew this was a game where we would need to break them early, and that's what we did." Jerusalem's biggest worry before the game was the Latvians' three-point scoring. But on Tuesday the hosts' shooting from beyond the arc turned out to be an advantage for Hapoel rather than a disadvantage. Ventspils only hit three of its 24 attempts from the three-point arc and effectively handed Hapoel the victory by scoring so poorly. The Latvians were led by Dusan Julic who scored 15 points (all in the first half) and grabbed 10 rebounds, and by Darlon Johnson who added 10 points and nine rebounds. Ventspils opened an early five-point margin with Dusan Jelic's three-pointer giving the side a 9-4 lead. The hosts maintained their advantage and were ahead 15-10 after seven minutes. But as the game progressed Hapoel improved its defensive play and went on a run that would secure the tie. Erez Markovitch's hook shot gave the side its first lead of the game (17-15), and a buzzer-beating tip-in by Bowers gave Jerusalem a 22-15 lead at the end of the first period. Two free-throws by Dror Hajaj four minutes into the second quarter capped his teams 20-0 run and Hapoel opened what would prove to be an unassailable 15-point advantage (30-15). Hapoel continued to extend the margin as the first half came to a close, with Bowers hitting a jumper in the final second to give his side a 45-28 halftime lead. Ventspils lost all hope of advancing after the first half and failed to even cut into the Israelis gap in the third quarter. Tapiro's basket gave his team a 24-point advantage (56-32). After the third period ended in a 60-40 lead the game was as good as over. The last 10 minutes of the game were meaningless. Even though Jerusalem only scored 13 points in the quarter, it coasted to an 11-point victory on its way to the last eight of the competition.