The Reds, sitting in second to last place in the group, needed to beat the leaders to stand any chance of going through and with E.J. Rowland inspiring them on they picked up an amazing 86-82 win in front of over 8,000 fans at Pais Arena.
The Turkish side had already qualified for the next round but still came out strong in Israel’s capital as Errick McCollum netted 18 points with Joey Dorsey close behind collecting 16 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
Josh Duncan scored 17 points for Hapoel while Rowland dropped 21 points to bring his Euro tally for the season so far to 138 points, the fourth highest scorer in the competition.
The first quarter was very tight as the lead switched back and forth between the two sides. With only 40 seconds left Hapoel were up by two points but Galatasaray made a pair of free throws to tie the quarter up at 19. Galatasaray’s Safak Edge and Vladimir Micov along with Hapoel’s D’or Fischer were the top scorers at the end of the first – all with six points.
The visitors raced to a five point lead at the start of the second quarter but Hapoel fought back as Matt Janning nailed a 3-pointer to put his side ahead 34-32 with four minutes remaining. Hapoel were leading by four as the half was coming to a close but McCollum banged in two 3-pointers to tie the score up at 43. McCollum was the leading scorer with 13 at the break while Janning had 10pts for Hapoel.
The third quarter started in a similar tight manner but the hosts moved into a strong lead with the scoreboard reading 62-54. But Galatasaray slowly cut the gap down, finishing the frame down by only four points.
Galatasaray came out strong at the start of the fourth and immediately knotted up the score as Dorsey slammed home two baskets. But Hapoel responded by turning on the afterburners and put in seven unanswered points. Galatasaray started slowly niggling away at the Hapoel lead in a low-scoring final quarter.
With just over two minutes left the score was 79-78 for the hosts. One minute later Duncan brought the score to 83-80 as the arena nearly exploded from the sound of over 8,000 fans trying to cheer Hapoel to victory. With half a minute of play remaining in the game Rowland netted a huge solo effort before he and McCollum exchanged free throws, with the visitor’s man missing both and Rowland netting one to finish things at 86-82 for the Reds.
Hapoel host AEK Athens next Wednesday in a crucial group matchup. The Greeks’ loss to Nizhny in round eight was a huge boost for the Reds and if they can win then they will overtake Athens and move into a qualification spot. Hapoel then travel to last place Volgograd the week after while AEK host Neptunas Klaipeda.
The Reds’ coach Danny Franco said: “We needed to do everything we possibly could to try and win this game. For us to stay alive we needed this win. The pressure made it a lot harder for us to play against a team with so much talent and to beat them when we are coming with our backs to the wall was a great job from my guys. I’m happy that even though we had pressure on our shoulders we handled it and even if there were minutes we didn’t play well we kept fighting and working hard and playing together as a team.”
More post game reaction came from Tony Gaffney and EJ Rowland, you can watch the shorts clips below!
Turkish manager Ergin Ataman said: “It was a spectacular game for the fans. In some periods we lost our concentration and we gave up a lot of points in the paint to Hapoel, too much. Even though it was a Euro Cup game for us it was not very important to win [because they already qualified]. We didn’t have good contribution – especially in the second half – from our bench, we also missed some free throws at the end but Hapoel won the game and congratulations to them.”