ULEB Cup: Tapiro leads Jerusalem over Siena

Old and new faces joined together in a team effort that offers much hope for the club's future.

hapoel jerusalem 298.88 (photo credit: www.hapoel.co.il)
hapoel jerusalem 298.88
(photo credit: www.hapoel.co.il)
Hapoel Jerusalem captain Meir Tapiro came off the bench to score eight fourth-quarter points and found reserve forward Guy Pniny open for a huge three-pointer as the capital squad held on to beat Montepaschi Siena 85-80 Tuesday night at Malha. The hard-earned victory featured contributions from practically every player on the squad and evened both teams' records at 1-1 in Group C of ULEB Cup competition. More importantly it reflected the strong character of coach Dan Shamir's club. In a game that saw three Jerusalem players - Jurica Golemac, Tamar Slay and Matan Naor - foul out, Shamir needed to rely on everyone, and they came through. Old and new faces joined together in a team effort that offers much hope for the club's future. Among the familiar sights on display at the home ULEB Cup opener were Matan Naor's defense. But the gritty guard's offense also had a big part to play in Hapoel's second-half comeback after they fell behind by as much as 48-39 early in the third quarter, nailing a three-pointer and then the bonus foul shot after he was knocked to the floor. The dramatic 4-point play cut the lead to 48-45. Then Naor added a big block, and when new point guard Ed Cota fed Mario Austin for a gorgeous alley-oop dunk, Malha erupted and a red smoke bomb was set off, delaying the game for several minutes. Familiar face Tapiro, not used to spending so much time on the bench (he only played 11 minutes) incurred Shamir's wrath earlier, as poor shot selection by the captain contributed to Jerusalem's sputtering offense in the first half, which ended with the Italians ahead 38-36. So it was a frustrated Tapiro who took the court with 5:05 after Naor fouled out. But he got right into the action, hitting a shot to stretch Jerusalem's lead to 72-69, then another one to open up a five-point bulge. With 52.1 seconds left and Jerusalem clinging to a 78-76 lead, the captain found yet another newcomer, Pniny, open on the right corner beyond the arc. The burly Pniny had time to set himself as he took the pass and swished it, sending the Jerusalem fans home happy. The BSL's third- and fourth-place finishers from last season were also in action on Tuesday, playing their first games in Europe's third-most prestigious competition, the Eurocup. Ironi Nahariya lost to JDA Dijon 85-68, and Maccabi Rishon Lezion fell to BCM Gravelines 91-74. Matchday three of the Euroleague will get under way on Wednesday night with reigning champions CSKA Moscow and David Blatt's Benetton Treviso in action. Blatt's men lost last week 82-69 to Winterthur Barcelona and will be looking to get back on the winning track against Turkish side Fenerbahce Ulker on Wednesday.