VEF Riga survived yet another do-or-die situation in Group G by edging Hapoel Jerusalem 74-71 in the Latvian capital on Tuesday night. VEF improved to 2-3 and keeps chances to qualify to the Last 16. Hapoel dropped to 3-2 but will be the Group G champion, regardless of other results, if it beats Cajasol in Jerusalem next week. Dairis Bertans paced the winners with 20 points. Kristaps Janicenoks added 13, Kaspars Berzins had 12 while Art Parakhouski got 10 for VEF. Willie Solomon with 24 points and 9 rebounds. Brian Randle and Jason Rich each added 14 points while Sam Clancy got 12 for the guests, that led 33-40 at halftime. Bertans fueled a 9-0 run that allowed VEF to regain the lead, 42-40, right after the break. The hosts boosted their margin to 69-63 with 3 minutes left. Rich, Clancy and Solomon managed to bring Hapoel as close as 71-70 but a three-pointer by Berzins allowed VEF to seal the outcome in the final seconds.
Rich got Hapoel going with a three-pointer but the guests went scoreless in the next two minutes. Meanwhile, Bertans and Cheyne Gadson combined for 6 points in a 10-0 run that Parakhouski capped with a layup, good for a 10-3 VEF lead. Randle tried to change things with a jumper but Berzins answered from downtown for a 13-5 VEF margin. Randle and Solomon shined with back-to-back baskets but Tyler Cain and Janicenoks kept VEF way ahead, 17-9. An outstanding Randle and a three-point play by Clancy allowed Hapoel to get as close as 19-18. Sandis Valters followed a jumper with a layup but Solomon and Clancy allowed the guests to tie it at 23-23 after 10 minutes. A layup by Solomon completed the guests' comeback, 23-25, early in the second quarter. Hapoel kept excelling in defense, as Solomon struck from downtown while Randle and Clancy led a 2-12 run that boosted the guests' lead to double digits, 27-37. Janicenoks tried to change things with free throws and a put-back layup by Andrejs Selakovs gave VEF some hope at 31-37. Hapoel could not find the way to the basket while Valters got the hosts even closer, 33-37. Rich raced downcourt and downed a three-pointer to fix the halftime score at 33-40.
Just as in the beginning of the game, VEF started the third quarter with outstanding defense. Meanwhile, a layup by Parakhouski ignited a 9-0 run in which Bertans had 7 points, including a three-pointer that completed the hosts' comeback, 42-40. Clancy stepped up with a dunk but back-to-back layups by Berzins and Parakhouski restored a 46-42 VEF lead. Solomon sank free throws but a triple by Janicenoks and a free throw by Bertans made it a six-point game, 50-44. Hapoel could not find answers in offense while Janicenoks and Bertans kept VEF way ahead, 56-50. Randle and Yuval Naimy got Hapoel within 57-54 but Janicenoks allowed VEF to restore a six-point lead, 60-54, after 30 minutes. Consecutive layups by Naimy and Solomon brought Hapoel back to life, 60-58, early in the third quarter. Parakhouski got the crowd involved with a dunk and a big triple by Bertans boosted VEF's lead to 65-58. Rich and Valters traded jumpers but a three-pointer by Solomon gave Hapoel some hope, 67-63, with over 3 minutes left. Bertans nailed back-to-back jumpers but Clancy and a three-point play by Rich kept Hapoel in the game, 71-68. Solomon scored off a steal to force VEF to call timeout, 71-70, already in the final minute. Berzins downed a key triple but a free throw by Dion Dowell kept Hapoel within 74-71. Rich missed from downtown in the final seconds, allowing all VEF fans to celebrate that their team stays in the Last 16 race!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010