Hapoel Jerusalem bounced back from two straight defeats with a 92-90 victory over Krasny Volgograd in a sensational game that went right down to the buzzer.
The Reds are now tied with Nizhny Novgorod and Neptunas Klaipeda who all have two victories, in third place in their Euro Cup group after the win at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena.
E.J. Rowland dominated for the hosts picking up 22 points and 8 rebounds while Matt Janning scored 20 points with 6 boards. D.J. Cooper was on fire for the Russians with 27 points and 13 assists.
Hapoel had thrown away leads against both Maccabi Rishon LeZion and AEK Athens in the past week after failing to come through in the fourth quarter and that same problem so nearly caught up with them again as Volgograd came close to snatching the victory in a nail-biting finish.
The first 10 minutes saw real open play with Hapoel coming out on top 26-20. Janning was the star netting four 3-pointers for the home side. Josh Duncan hit his head hard right near the end of the quarter that sent him off out of commission for the rest of the game with concussion like symptoms. Hapoel continued to hold the lead in the second quarter with a last minute bucket from Volgograd that sent the teams into halftime at 51-44.
The Reds didn’t come out strong in the third quarter. D’or Fischer gave away the ball at the start of the frame that allowed Volgograd to pick up the first points of the half. The away team were playing better but Hapoel came back in the last few minutes to end the quarter 68-62, thanks to a slam dunk from Fischer.
Hapoel were still being outplayed in the fourth quarter and were struggling to score. Volgograd tied things up at 74 with five minutes remaining as the two teams traded points. With less than a minute left things were starting to look bleak for Hapoel who were trailing 83-86. However, Tony Gaffney nailed a three right from the corner to even things up as Rowland added another 3-pointer to take the lead 89-86.
With only 20 seconds remaining the two sides traded fouls and a free-throw contest ensued. Cooper and Rowland were both finding nothing but net before Janning saw one of his effort’s bounce off the rim and cut Hapoel’s lead to two points. With only seconds left on the clock the Russians raced up the floor and worked the ball to JaJuan Johnson right under the basket. But the American saw his attempted dunk crash off the rim as the buzzer sounded to give Hapoel the hard fought victory.
Following the game, the injured Duncan was seen gingerly walking out of the arena with some help still dazed from the earlier injury.
Hapoel coach Danny Franco said: “We played against a team that’s difficult to prepare for so I am glad we won. There was a lot of pressure on us because this was an important game. Sometimes when you have a short roster, everyone knows that they need to give everything. That’s what the guys did. At this stage, we need to win games. If we can forget last year as quickly as possible, we’ll succeed.”
The Reds host Novgorod next week and despite sitting second to last – albeit only on point differential – they will be confident of qualifying as they still have more home games to play than their opponents.
In other European action Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion went into Sofia, Buogaria and beat the home side Academic 84-70 in a very well played game by the Israeli side. Charles Wright picked up a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Darryl Monroe chipped in with 18 points, while Mark Lyons hit two three pointers to help Rishon go 10/20 from downtown sealing the victory for Sharon Drucker’s team who now sit in 2nd place of their four team group.