Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem earned a spot in the ULEB Cup elimination rounds with a hard-fought 95-82 win over Alba Berlin on Tuesday in the Israeli capital. The win saw Hapoel clinch third place in Group C with a 5-5 mark, while Alba, which slipped to 4-6, also advances due to the other results in the group. Alba benefited from Montepaschi Siena's win over Oostende and Khimki's win over Lukoil Academic, which allowed Berlin to take fourth place thanks to a tiebreaker over Oostende and Academic. Hapoel was 9 points behind Alba halfway through the second quarter, and lost Mario Austin who fouled out in the first seconds of the last quarter with the game tied, but still found what was needed to step up and complete the mission. Meir Tapiro led Hapoel with 22 points and 6 assists, while Jurica Golemac was the true MVP of the game with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Dror Hagag scored 16 points in 21 minutes, Timmy Bowers added 13, Austin 12 – all in the first half – and Terence Morris had 11. Former Jerusalemite Will Avery and Julius Jenkins led Alba with 17 points each, Johannes Herber added 12, while Sharrod Ford and Chris Owens had 11 each.
The intensity of the game showed in the first minute, when both teams committed turnovers. It was Jenkins who put Alba first on the scoreboard. Soon the swing started as the lead changed hands frequently. Austin with some power moves kept Hapoel ahead, and drew an early third foul from Owens, but Ruben Boumtje Boumtje's two baskets made it 13-15 for the visitors. Bowers had a key play to stop Alba's fastbreak with a steal, which he turned into a three-point play that put Hapoel back on top. Herber heated up with 7 points in a row and make it 18-25 for Alba. With 8 seconds left in the quarter, Ed Cota fed Morris in transition for a big alley-oop and fixed the first quarter score at 22-26. Austin and Boumtje-Boumtje exchanged baskets early in the second, as Alba stayed safely in front. Hapoel continued to struggle behind the arc, making only one of its first 9 shots from downtown. Trailing by 9, Tapiro missed a close jumper, but quickly repented by stealing the defensive board and dishing an assist to Morris, who finished a three-point play to keep Hapoel alive. Golemac stepped up with a steal and then an offensive rebound, making it 31-35 midway through the second quarter. Alba got stuck on 35 points until Jenkins nailed a great jumper, preventing Hapoel from tying the game. Avery, who collected 12 points in the first half, nailed his third three-pointer of the night to make it 35-40, only to see Tapiro on the other end nail two triples in a row and dish an assist to Bowers, who gave the lead back to Hapoel for the first time in the quarter, 43-42, with less than two minutes left. Hapoel climbed one more step before the break by making three foul shots and taking a 48-44 lead.
Once again the teams came out of the locker rooms out of focus, missing close-range shots, but Tapiro woke up first and soon Golemac hit a three-pointer to make it 53-46. Aniekan Archibong heard two quick whistles and fouled out early and Tapiro used that to nail a corner three. Just when everything seemed to going well for Hapoel, Austin made his fourth foul and took a rest, but Tapiro set a double-digit margin for the first time. Four minutes inside the third quarter, Alba finally scored its first field goal from Ford's hands, and when Avery and Jenkins nailed bombs from downtown, it was only 63-60 and Hapoel had to take a timeout. Avery completed a 4-14 run to tie the game at 64-64, but Hagag nailed a huge three that set the arena on fire. Alba didn't blink and continued its run, as Simon Nicolai put the visitors on top, before Bowers tied it from the line to send the teams to the last period tied at 69-69. Ten seconds into the last quarter, Austin made an offensive foul and fouled out, and things seemed to get darker on Hapoel. Ford continued Alba's momentum with a huge block, but Golemac finished a fast break with a dunk and Hapoel led 73-72 with 8 minutes to go. Now it was time for Morris to step up with a key three-pointer and a block that pushed the locals to a 78-75 lead. Alba was still in the game, but when Hagag nailed a huge three from extra long range to beat the shot clock Hapoel was already up 84-77 and the fans were in the sky. Herber and Owens made just one from the line to cut the lead to 4, but Tapiro nailed both his shots and Hapoel entered the last 90 seconds with an 88-82 lead. Alba had one last chance, but Nenad Canak missed a three pointer and Hagag sealed the win from the line.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007