Russia has been a happy hunting ground for Hapoel Tel Aviv this season. They defeated Ural Great early on in the FIBA Europe League in Perm and beat Dynamo Moscow away in the play-offs. Today in Kazan, they beat Ural Great for the 2nd time to claim 3rd place in the FEL.
Although players can sometimes fail to get motivated in consolation games, this contest was competitive throughout, and it took overtime to separate the 2 sides. The difference proved to be the Tel Aviv backcourt, led by little-heralded point guard Dror Hagag. Hagag, at 180 cm the smallest player on the court, scored 8 points in overtime and capped the contest by blocking a Ruslan Avleev 3-point attempt which he converted into a fast break lay-up to seal the victory.
It was Ural Great the made the early running. Ruslan Avleev scored 8 first quarter points for the Russians as their lead reached as much as 10 points.
In fact, the Russians led until halfway through the third quarter. It was a Virginijus Praskevicius steal and dunk which capped a 6:0 run and gave the Israeli team their first lead of the entire game. Suddenly it was a real contest and Tel Aviv surged ahead, only for Ural Great to come back and take a 73:72 lead at the end of the quarter.
|Dror Hagag was the star of the game for Tel Aviv|
Into the fourth, it was Tel Aviv who seemed to have the stronger legs. Michael Wright scored 10 points in the period and they established a 6-point lead, 84:90. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf answered with a three-pointer, but when Wright came from nowhere to block an Avleev breakaway lay-up attempt, Tel Aviv had the ascendancy.
However, Wright fouled out on the next play and a jumper from Darren Fenn tied the score at 93:93. Lior Lubin hit 2 clutch free throws to give Tel Aviv the lead, but it was Rauf who answered and his bank shot with 10 seconds remaining tied the score again. Lubin had the chance to win the game, but Rauf stripped him of the ball and Tel Aviv did not have enough time to get off a shot.
In overtime, Hagag was the undoubted star. His jump shot and drive opened up a 4-point gap, and his free throws and breakaway lay-up sealed the victory.
He finished the game with a team-high 26 points (10/15 shooting), 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Wright had 21 points, Praskevicius 19 (along with 9 rebounds and 6 assists) and Lubin 18.
Avleev was outstanding for Ural Great and scored a game-high 29 points while Abdul-Rauf added 19.