A historic performance by Meir Tapiro helped Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem take another step on the Road to Charleroi with an 88-79 win over FMP Zeleznik in the first game of the teams' ULEB Cup quarterfinals series on Tuesday night at Malha Arena in the Israeli capital. However the visitors will have a chance to turn the tables in the second leg of the two-game series next week in Serbia. Tapiro recorded 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for only the second triple-double in the history of the ULEB Cup and the first that was accomplished without overtime. Hapoel went into the fourth quarter ahead by 16, but FMP stormed back and cut the lead to 4, before Terrence Morris and Dror Hagag wrapped up the 9-point victory. Mario Austin led Hapoel with 26 points, Timmy Bowers added 14, Hagag had 11 with 5 assists and Jurica Golemac posted 10 before fouling out. FMP got 22 points from Branko Cvetkovic, including 5 three-pointers. Zoran Erceg scored 17, Dragan Labovic had 13 and Milos Teodosic contributed 11.
Erceg got things going for FMP with a three-pointer to start the game, but Hapoel replied right away. The hosts shared the ball as four players scored four baskets and Austin's three-pointer made it 9-9. Cvetkovic with 5 points in a row led a 0-7 run that forced Hapoel to take a timeout, but FMP climbed an 11-19 lead after Aleksandar Rasic nailed a three-pointer of his own. Hagag came off the bench and had an immediate impact with 4 points in a row that forced FMP to call a timeout still up by a point, a little over two minutes to go in the quarter. Teodosic stepped up with 6 points to give FMP a 21-26 lead at the end of the first quarter.
FMP maintained the lead for two more minutes, before Hapoel struck back. Tapiro with a corner three was followed by Austin's alley-oop and power slam to make it just 32-33 with 6 minutes to play in the first half. Erceg quieted things down with another three-pointer as FMP refused to let Hapoel take the lead. Even when Morris tied the score from the line with his first points, Cvetkovic added another triple and kept Hapoel waiting. But a minute later, Austin's mid-range bucket gave Hapoel its first lead and after Bowers stole the ball at mid-court and finished with a dunk, FMP was took a time out down by 3 points, 42-39. Cvetokic added two more from the line to reach 10 points in the first half, but Tapiro answered with a buzzer-beater to end up the second quarter with a 44-41 Jerusalem lead.
Bowers came back from the locker-room fired up. With a steal and 4 points in a row he pushed Hapoel to a 6-0 opening spurt and forced FMP to call a timeout after just two minutes. Labovic broke the drought a minute later, but FMP continued to struggle from the field as Hapoel took a 52-43 lead. Cvetkovic and Golemac exchanged points beyond the arc, but Hapoel's defense forced FMP to take long distance shots that kept missing. Tapiro and Bowers used that to give Hapoel its first double-digit lead of the night, which grew to 59-46. Labovic scored 5 points in a row for FMP but the Hapoel machine continued to roll. Tapiro in a fast break and Austin with a lay up made it 67-53 for the hosts, before Erceg added a point for FMP from the line. Hapoel took a timeout for the last shot of the quarter and came back with another buzzer-beater by Tapiro, this time beyond the arc, to enter the last quarter with a 1- point lead, 70-54.
Just as Hapoel looked ready to turn the last quarter into garbage time, FMP fought back. Hapoel scored only 2 points in the first 4 points of the deciding quarter, as Golemac fouled out and Tapiro picked his fourth foul. On the other end Cvetkovic hit two three pointers and Erceg scored from the line to make it a 7-point game, 72-65. Hapoel finally managed to stop FMP's run, but the visitors continued to fight. Teodosic hit the visitors' fourth three-pointer of the quarter to get his team within 5 as the pressure on Hapoel kept growing. Tapiro's three-point shot spun on the rim and went out, and Labovic made it 78-74. Morris saved the day for Hapoel with a tough three and after Rasic hit just one from the line, Hagag excelled in clutch with another three that pushed Hapoel to a 9-point lead, 84-75. Labovic added another lay up and two points from the line to bring the difference down to 7. With 2.9 seconds on the clock, Bowers went to the line for what can turn out to be crucial points, and hit twice, setting the final score at 88-79.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007