Hapoel Jerusalem has no more room for mistakes in the Eurocup after falling to a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-three semifinal series against Valencia on Tuesday, losing 83-68 in Spain.
Jerusalem hosts Game 2 on Friday and will have to win to force a decisive game in Valencia next Wednesday.
The series opener was tight until the fourth quarter, with Hapoel still within two points with seven-and-a-half minutes to play. But Valencia dominated the closing stages, ultimately registering a comprehensive victory that moves it within a win of the final.
Tarence Kinsey scored 22 points for Hapoel, which is playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2006. Curtis Jerrells added 13 points, with Amar’e Stoudemire finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Fernando San Emeterio scored 21 points for Valencia, which hasn’t lost a home game in the competition since Jerusalem beat it in its regular season opener in October.
Jerusalem got off to the better start on Tuesday, but Valencia was never too far behind and held a one-point edge (20-19) after 10 minutes.
Hapoel found its range at the beginning of the second quarter, going on a 10-2 run in two-anda- half minutes to open its biggest lead of the first half (29-22). Shawn Jones and Tarence Kinsey combined to score all 10 of the points in Jerusalem’s surge, but the visitors couldn’t build on the momentum.
The Israeli visitors would end up going more than five minutes without scoring another point, allowing Valencia to move in front with an 11-0 run (33-29).
The drought finally ended with just under two-and-a-half minutes to play in the half, with veteran Israeli guard Yotam Halperin threading the ball through to Curtis Jerrells for an easy lay-up.
Halperin then hit a jumper to tie the score, but Valencia still had a one-point edge (36-35) at the break.
The hosts hit the ground running at the start of the second half, with a Luke Sikma three-pointer opening the first double-digit gap of the night (47-37).
Hapoel never lost its cool, holding Valencia to only two points over nearly five minutes and closing to within three points (49-46) following Travis Peterson’s triple with 2:45 minutes to play in the period.
But Jerusalem wouldn’t score again until the buzzer marking the end of the quarter, with Kinsey’s jumper ensuring Hapoel was still within striking distance (55-48) with 10 minutes to play.
After a poor offensive period, Jerusalem got the fourth frame off to a flying start, with Halperin three cutting the deficit to just two points (55-53).
Hapoel was still trailing by just two points (58-56) following Kinsey’s three with 7:40 remaining in the game, only for Valencia to net the next six points to give itself some breathing room (64- 56). Kinsey did his best to keep Jerusalem in touch, with his triple midway through the frame making it a five-point game (64-59).
But Jerusalem would come no closer and has to win on Friday to remain alive in the series.
Meanwhile, the third Israeli side still active in continental competition is Ironi Nahariya, but it will require a remarkable comeback to avoid an exit at the quarterfinals stage of the Europe Cup on Wednesday.
Nahariya needs to overturn a 21-point defeat (89-68) from the first leg at Telekom Bonn when it hosts the Germans in the return leg on Wednesday.
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