Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem qualified for the ULEB Cup Last 32 with an 89-74 home win over Group I leader PGE Turow Zgorzelec on Tuesday night in the Israeli capital. After the win, Hapoel waited for the results in the other groups to find out that it had advanced to the next stage as one of the five best fourth-place teams. Erez Markovich covered once again for the injured Jaime Arnold and had a career performance of 25 points and 6 rebounds – only 1 point less than he amassed in his last eight games. Jerusalem pulled away with a 23-12 second period to take a 49-32 halftime lead, which it nursed the rest of the way for the important win. Sharon Shason scored 16 points already in the first half on his way to 23 points and 8 boards, while Timmy Bowers and Ramel Curry added 16 points each for Hapoel, witch took 20 offensive rebounds and outrebounded Turow 48-35. David Logan opened the game with 15 points in the first minutes but finished only with 20 for Turow, while Marko Scekic had 13 and Thomas Kelati 10.
Hapoel used Markovic as a great finisher to collect 6 quick points, but saw Logan hit three times in a row from long range to tie the game at 11-11 after four minutes. Scekic missed two open long-range shots, but Logan continued his show with two more three-pointers that silenced the local fans, but Hapoel had the better finish. Markovic with a three-point play climbed to 9 points – matching his season-high in one quarter – while Curry fixed a miss at the buzzer to give Hapoel a 26-20 lead after one quarter. Noel Felix came off the bench to add athleticism in the paint and his second block was followed by big minutes of Shason. Six points by the forward sent Turow to talk about it with Hapoel up 34-22. Guy Pniny came in to stop Logan, who lost his touch and added just a single bucket until halftime after his huge start. Turow continued to struggle on offense and collected only 4 points in the first seven minutes of the quarter. Hapoel kept on gathering points on first and second chances and Shason with a corner jumper set the difference on 43-24 on the edge of halftime. Iwo Kitzinger with 4 points in a row made it just a 15 points game, but Curry again had the final word and with the buzzer scored his 14th point and set the halftime score on 49-32. Turow tried to find new offensive tools and mid-range jumpers by Andres Rodriguez made a little change, but Hapoel wasn't going to give up on its big lead. Markovic continued to score in the paint and whenever the visitors came close, Hapoel's center showed his soft touch to keep them far away. Logan finally found his three-point range again, and Scekic made it just 64-51 with three minutes to play in the quarter, but Shason with a big three and Markovic with his 22nd point made it 71-53 with 10 minutes to play in the regular season. Just when it all seemed done, Turow gave one last push. Kelati warmed up his cannon and Harding Nana with 4 quick points made it just 78-69 with four minutes to play. Just then Scekic got a technical foul, but Hapoel earned only 2 points from that play and Turow stayed close. Before too many heart beats were missed in the capital, Markovic made another big play in the paint and after a three by Bartosz Bochno didn't hit the rim, Hapoel slowed down the pace to secure the win, and finally feel safe to allow Markovic a standing obviation.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008