Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem recorded a big 88-73 win over BK Ventspils on Tuesday night in the Israeli capital to set up an interesting second leg in two weeks in the teams' ULEB Cup eighthfinals series. Mario Austin scored 21 points and Dror Hagag matched a season-high with 16 off the bench to lead Hapoel. The evening was like a cat-and-mouse game, with Hapoel building a number of big leads only to see the Latvian champs stoem back. Jerusalem led 21-13 midway through the first period, but Uvis Helmanis's hot hand gave the visitors a 25-26 lead after 10 minutes. Hagag keyed a 16-3 second period run as the hosts went into the locker rooms at halftime ahead 51-37. Ventspils came out for the second half in form and a series of threes then allowed Justin Love to return the lead to his team. But Hagag scored 7 and dished an assist to Guy Pniny for a three during a 10-0 run to close the third period and Hapoel continued to pull away in the fourth period, extending the lead to 17 points before settling on the big win. Jurica Golemac finished with 16 points and 5 assists and Meir Tapiro scored 11 for Hapoel, but the hero was Hagag. In the 22 minutes the guard played off the bench, Hapoel outscored Ventspils 51-23. Helmanis was perfect from the field on the way to 17 points for Ventspils, which was without starting center Dusan Jelic. Eddie Shannon added 15 points and 8 assists and Justin Love scored 11 in defeat.
Austin won the tip and after just 10 seconds completed a three-point play, but Ventspils was quick to reply. Shannon put the visitors first on the board and Helmanis tied the score from behind the arc, 5-5. Austin's power slam was followed by a layup to spark an 8-0 Hapoel run, but Helmanis once again hit a three to stop Hapoel. Terrence Morris came off the bench to replace Austin, who picked up two personal fouls in just 5 minutes. Helmanis's third triple made it a 2-point game, but Tapiro on the other end hit from outside and added the bonus from the line to complete a 4-point play and keep Hapoel on top. Golemac committed his second personal foul and the visitors used the momentum. Down by 8 again, Shannon hit another long-distance jumper and Love scored a layup and the bonus from the line to make it 21-19. After Tapiro missed two open shots, Kaspars Cipruss replied with a bucket and an assist to a three pointer by Aigars Vitols to give Ventspils its first lead of the game, 23-24. Erez Markovic and Dalron Johnson exchanged points before the first 10 minutes finished with Ventspils up by a point. Austin came back to start the second quarter, but Love put Ventspils up 27-30 after an Ed Cota turnover. Once again Austin was there with a three-point play, but Cipruss showed his presence again with good defense on Austin and a layup up on the other end, before he committed his second foul and hit the bench. The pace continued to stay quick, but no team was able to produce a run. Hagag and Pniny came off the bench for Hapoel to add more pressure on the ball on the way to a 39-34 lead midway through the second quarter. When Cipruss committed his third foul, fighting for position on the offensive board, Pniny gave Hapoel its first double-digit lead, 45-35 as the fans went wild. Tapiro and Markovic gave Hapoel its biggest lead of the night, 51-37, at the halftime buzzer.
Golemac started the second half with 5 points in a row to make it a 15-point game, but those were the only points for Hapoel in the first 5 minutes of the half. Ventspils used the pressure on defense to hit two downtown bombs on the other side and make it 56-49. Golemac added two more points, but Shannon and Helmanis scored another two three-pointers and Hapoel's lead was cut to 58-55. A technical foul called on Hapoel's bench allowed Shannon to put Ventspils back on top, 58-59 and complete a 2-18 run. Hagag scored a tough shot to become the first Hapoel player to score in the third quarter that wasn't Golemac, and later on added a big steal which he finished a tough layup and forced Ventspils to take a timeout down 67-62. With less than a minute to go in the period, Hagag wasn't done. He slashed to finish a three-point play, and right away put pressure on the in-bounds pass to steal the ball yet again and add another lay up, to give Hapoel a 72-62 at the end of the third quarter. Love and Shannon tried to save the visitors from long range, but didn't find the net. Timermanis scored the first points for Ventspils in the last quarter after 4 minutes, but until Austin stepped up Hapoel wasn't able to make the run. Hapoel's center scored 7 points in a row to make it 79-64, and from that point on the locals managed to maintain the lead that gives them a very big advantage for the second leg in Latvia.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007