"I can't describe the feeling, it's amazing. Insane euphoria. Has any team ever done this before, coming back from 0 – 2?", said Chen Nusel after the game. Raanana Hertzelia made mistory and became the first team to come back from 0 – 2 and win the series in this league. A wonderful team game on both ends helped Raanana Hertzelia return to the finals for the first time since 2002. They led by 22 in the 3rd, but Ramat Hen cut it to 8 in the 4th. It was a 98 – 84 final, but the local's victory was never in real jeopardy.
Raanana Hertzelia 98 – Maccabi Ramat Hen 84
Tonight it wasn't about the zone defense, or Ramat Hen's bad 3 point shooting, or an injury, or anything specific. Tonight it was simply about the best team winning, emphasize on "team". Sadly and shockingly there was no computer in the court so we don’t have official stats, but Raanana Hertzelia displayed a beautiful offensive game with loads of assists and sharing, reaching an all time game-5 high 98 points.
The first half might have been their best half of the season, despite the fact reigning league MVP Tanisha Wright didn't score a point. Wright dished out six assists in the half and helped her team go up 54 – 35 with 3 seconds to play in the half. Ramat Hen got back in the game in the 2nd half, but no closer than eight.
"These past three games our moto has been "1 more", one more game, it's even written on my shoe. So we take it one game at a time, we don’t think ahead, cause if we do it'd look like a marathon with no end", said Chen Nusel after the game. "What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I guess the 0 – 2 really made us stronger. I don’t know where we found all the energy, it was mostly mental. Amazing. This is a huge team, amazing management. I think we proved we deserve first place, we proved we're not just another team and what we did all season long wasn't by accident". We heard about proving things from Mistie Williams as well. "You know, everybody had something to say about our team. We're not good enough, we did just alright in the season, it was a fluke and that's what we heard from a lot of people, but it doesn’t matter what anybody else has to say, it's what our team believes and we believe in ourselves", she said.
"After the 2nd loss Shiki told us: 'if you're gonna give up, don't come to practice. Don't come to the gym, just go home'. I think that kind of woke us up, we were like wow, Shiki cares and he believes that we can still do this", said Williams. "So we took it a game at a time and now that we're going to the championship, I'm just so proud of my team. Everybody, everybody believed in each other and I think the person I'm most happy for is Shiki because he's really invested a lot in this club, in this team, and he's done a tremendous job", the center praised.
After the loss in game 2 Neda Djuric said her team just might be the first to come back from 0 – 2, and tonight she could smile. "Yeah, we are the first. We are a special team, I must say", Djuric said. "It wasn't good that we made the mistake of losing the first two games so we knew we had to fix it and actually, show up.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanna give credit to Ramat Hen. They did more than what we expected, that's why we lost the first two games, we underestimated them and they put up a great fight". Generous of her, no doubt. "When we play well we have a tendency to relax and that's what was happening through out the season, and the interesting thing about this team is that every time our backs are against the wall is when we actually show up and play the hardest", she summed up.
"Tomorrow the players get the day off, I have tapes ready", said Shiki Falah at the end. "Ramla is a team with a lot of tradition, an experienced coach who's been in this situation more than once before, and very good players. We didn’t come ready for the Ramat Hen series, so it's important we realize that even though we made a huge accomplishment that nobody can take away from us, if you reach the finals you have to believe and want the championship".
Raanana Hertzelia started out well with strong coordinated defense and a flowing offense ran by Djuric. They hit two threes on the Ramat Hen zone to go up 14 – 6. Adan Inbar's timeout couldn't make his team start playing basketball, and they kept turning it over and watched as Abiola Wabara made it 21 – 6. Edwina Brown went on a personal 7 – 0 run to cut it to eight but that wasn’t team basketball either, and it had no continuation. Wright found Williams, Nusel came off a screen for three and Djuric drove through the whole defense, 28 – 15 after 1.
Ramat Hen cut it to 27 – 37 on Shtain's three and Price's fast break, but Raanana Hertzelia answered right back. Shtain's missed three sent Wabara racing for an easy on to spark an 11 – 4 run and it was a 17 point lead. Levisky joined in, Djuric added a three, 54 – 35 with three seconds to go in the half. Price & Sharon set the halftime score at 38 – 54. 54 points in one half, with none by Wright. "We got points today from Ornit and Katia and me, and we're the added value", said Nusel. "Add Mistie [Williams] and Abi [Wabara] who were great and Neda [Djuric] who had an excellent game. We really did an amazing switch from being down 0 – 2, I think you can see that, and we're running and that's what led us to first place all season long".
Early in the 3rd Tanisha Wright looked for the basket and found it, and Raanana Hertzelia kept diving for loose balls and wouldn't let Ramat Hen get close, 63 – 41 after Williams punished the visitors for another turnover. Ramat Hen showed a little life as very weird calls were making both sides angry. They finally managed to get the ball to McWilliams a few times and Price drew some fouls including Wright's 4th to make it just 56 – 68. Nusel hit a big three on the other end but Ramat Hen kept getting to the line, drew Djuric's 4th, and made it 61 – 72 after three.
Early in the 4th Ramat Hen had many chances to cut the lead to single digits and they found many creative ways of not doing it. McWilliams's three point play drew Djuric's 5th with 5 minutes to play and made it 73 – 83, but on the next possession Brown threw a full court pass to Price's feet (which is, by the way, legal). Two very unnecessary fouls by Raanana Hertzelia sent Lena Mustafina to hit 5 free throws and two more by McWilliams finally cut it to 82 – 90 while the locals had two turnovers, but with 2:20 to play it was way too little and way too late. An offensive board by Shwartz, a quick basket by Wabara and a steal by Wright officially punched Raanana Hertzelia's justified ticket to the finals.
"We had momentum when we cut it to eight, but we made some bad decisions on the fast breaks", said Adan Inbar at the end. "I wish Raanana Hertzelia good luck, they deserve this, they were better than us in this series. About us, I prefer to keep my personal feeling to myself".
For Raanana Hertzelia:
Mistie Williams 26 pts
Abiola Wabara 17 pts
Chen Nusel 12 pts
Tanisha Wright 11 pts, 12 assists
Ornit Shwartz & Neda Djuric 11 pts each
Katia Levitsky 6 pts
Noa Ganor 2 pts
For Ramat Hen:
Taj McWilliams 28 pts
Edwina Brown 15 pts (all in 1st half)
Lena Mustafina 14 pts
Armintie Price 13 pts
Chen Shtain 8 pts
Shiri Sharon 5 pts
Sharon Zeevi 2 pts
Raanana Hertzelia Finals Bound