Hapoel Tel Aviv look to cement 2nd place in EuroCup Group, Hapoel Jerusalem to stay undefeated in BCL Round of 16

Feb 7, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Two Israeli teams are in European action on Wednesday night, with Hapoel Tel Aviv playing an away fixture against Besiktas Istanbul in Ljubljana, Slovenia (20:00 IST / 13:00 EST) and Hapoel Jerusalem hosting Lenovo Tenerife in Belgrade, Serbia (21:00 IST / 14:00 EST).

Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Round 18 game is its EuroCup group before the post-season begins. While both teams have qualified to continue on after the end of the group stage, a win against the 9-8 Basiktas for the 12-5 Reds will secure second place in Group A. A loss and a victory for the third-placed London Lions against the out-of-playoff-contention Vilnius Wolves would mean that Hapoel Tel Aviv would drop to third place in the group.

“We’re at the last game in the group stage, a stage which was very complicated and challenging, with many difficulties and also happy moments,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Danny Franco said before the game. “I’m sure that tomorrow everyone will give 100% and together we will do everything that we can to end this round with another victory.”

Xavier Munford – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We’ve worked hard for the whole duration of the group stage so that we could be responsible for and in control of our own fate and at the end it all comes down to this last game,” Reds star Xavier Munford said. “I’m sure that the feeling of togetherness that we have as a team throughout this journey will guide our thoughts this evening at the time which we play this decisive game.”

The two teams last met at the end of November, with the Reds winning their home fixture in Belgrade 81-75 on the back of an 18-12 final quarter and a game MVP performance from star J’Covan Brown (19 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists). While out with injuries for a long stretch of the season, Brown’s recent return to the team last week, which included recording 12 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 19 minutes in the Round 17 91-85 victory over Joventut Badalona in EuroCup action, as well as playing meaningful minutes in the two local league victories over the last week against Hapoel Beer Sheva (90-68 at home) and Hapoel Haifa (103-84 away) to help Hapoel Tel Aviv maintain first place in the Winner League.

The Reds will also be boosted by the return of Brian Angola to the squad, who has also only recently come back from injury.

Braian Angola – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“Brian will return to the squad after a significant period off the court,” Franco said. “We will integrate him gradually and we trust him that he will give everything to his best ability in every moment that he’s on the court to help the team win.”

While Hapoel Jerusalem lost earlier this week to Ironi Kiryat Ata in the Winner League, they will be looking to stay perfect in FIBA Basketball Champions League Round of 16 when they take on Tenerife. Both teams are 2-0 in Group K, however there’s added meaning to this game, as it will be the first match-up between the teams since Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Tenerife in the semi-final of last year’s rendition of the competition 69-68.

“We need to try to play our way of basketball,” Hapoel Jerusalem coach Ilias Kantzouris said of the key to winning the game. “We need to start from our defense, being stable and consistent and in the tactical parts of the game that we really need to take care of. I feel there are small things which will be extremely important. Our concentration and our sense of urgency will be extremely important if we are going to get another W. This is a home game, which makes it a must for our side.”

Zach Hankins – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We got to really stick to being on the same page defensively and executing our game plan there,” center Zach Hankins said. “They’re a really tough opponent and we’re in a really tough group. They’re a great team, we need to make sure that we shut down what we want to shut down and then execute on offense, just doing our stuff and taking advantage of where we see their weaknesses.”

“This is a game against a very good team, but all the teams in our group are very, very good,” Kantzouris continued. “There are high quality basketball players and I feel that we should face this as every game. On the other hand, as I said, it’s a home game, the “must” is on our side, but I think that the guys will do the necessary things in order to bounce back.”

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