Holon pulled off the day's first upset, though the convincing way in which they won makes it odd calling it an upset. Holon played a great game on both ends of the court, got big contribution from the Israelis and blew away Ashdod who got very little from its foreigners, 86 – 68. "We erupted", said Meir Elyaho. "Lately we haven't been playing with the same heart we played with in the beginning of the season", said Tamara Moore.
Elizur Holon 86 – Maccabi Ashdod 68
Holon needed to hold Ashdod to under 70 points, did just that and also enjoyed a fantastic offensive afternoon which couldn't have come in better timing. Neither of Ashdod's foreigners showed up to play and they didn’t seem to want it bad enough. Ashdod was able to come back from 15 down to just 41 – 44 at the half thanks to Holon's 17 first half turnovers, but in the 2nd half Holon stopped being so generous. Ednisha Curry& Shiran Zairy in a great game on both ends of the court led Holon to an excellent 2nd half in which the mostly led by double figures. Going 7 for 16 from downtown after being the league's worst three point shooting team all season was big help as well as Holon returns to the cup semis for the first time since 2002.
"The media didn't follow us since the beginning of the season but we were close in all games, we just let it slip away", said Meir Eliyaho after the game. "Today we kind of exploded from outside and it was very important. We opened up a lead and that gave us confidence. Sometimes in close games young players don’t always have confidence, it's a process". Holon had five players in double figures as Shiran Zairy and Bar Gilinski joined the foreigners with 13 and 10 points respectively. "Against Ramat Hasharon I yelled at them that five Israelis can't finish a game with no points. I don’t know a team that can win without it's Israelis. When they contribute we can beat any team in the league", he summed up.
"Amazing", said Zairy who had 13 points and did a very good job harassing Ashdod's ball handlers. "Last year we weren’t able to make the semis but we're already thinking of the next game. We were sure it'll be a closer game but the team who won was the one who came in more prepared".
On the losing side, we didn’t find answers for their total breakdown today in their biggest game of the season. "We didn’t defend at all. We never showed up. It was very obvious in the first half and we were lucky to only be down three", said coach Dahila Bushinsky. But Ashdod couldn't grab the momentum in the 2nd half. "We didn’t box out and they were better from the jump. When you allow them to score on every possession, you lose confidence. Ever since Ramat Hen we haven't been able to get back to our game". Ashdod got very little from its three foreigners today, who combined for 27 points compared to 41 by the Israelis. Baker finished with 3 of 15 from the field, Humphrey wasn’t able to get any touches, and Moore also wasn’t able to get into the game. "I rather not talk about anyone in specific", said Bushinsky.
"We didn't play well today as a collective unit, and Holon played nearly perfect", said Tamara Moore. "I know people like to put everything on the Americans here but there's a lot of stuff going on that people don't know. I'm playing with a strained groin. Usually when a team's Israelis are good that team wins, but Holon was good today top to bottom", she continued. As for Ashdod's future and whether or not they need to make changes, Moore herself doesn't seem sure. "I would never tell the management what to do. But if we make changes the question is will we still have the same chemistry we had at the beginning of the season. It might not look like it on the court but we're still a collective unit off the court, basketball wise we're not meshing. Lately we haven't been playing with the same heart we played with in the beginning of the season, I don't know why. I can't pin point it, it's a lot of things. Maybe a fresh start, a clean slate after the break will help us. We're still 7-3 in the league and if we want things to change we have to make that change now."
After an early 8 – 6 Ashdod lead, Shiran Zairy drew a foul from Baker in transition for the first of Holon's four three-point plays of the quarter. Another silly foul send Walker for a bonus free throw and gave Holon a 12 – 8 lead. Ashdod responded with a quick 7 – 0 run with points by Karin Agasi, Bat El Lazmi and a three point play by Brasheeda Elohim to take a 15 – 12 lead with 3:40 left in the quarter, but that was their last lead of the game. Holon scored the game's next 12 points with three point plays by Curry and Gilinsky, 24 – 15 with a minute left in the quarter. Bushinsky called a timeout and Ashdod was able to cut it to 19 – 24 after Moore beat the buzzer with a long jumper.
Ashdod had three straight turnovers to start the 2nd and Baker's horror show continued, and now even her good shots wouldn't fall. Curry & Hileli made threes for Holon who's confidence became contagious and the gap grew to 36 – 21. Baker made her toughest shot of the day and added a free throw and Lazmi drove to cut it to 26 – 36, timeout Holon with seven to go in the half. Lazmi hit two threes and Baker made three free throws as she drove on Lin Golan often to make it just 35 – 41. Ashdod also picked up its defense and forced turnovers but didn’t capitalize on it enough, as the ball never got to Humphrey and Moore wasn't shooting. Holon hit free throws to increase the lead to 44 – 37 but Baker scored in the set game and Elohim scored down low to make it just 41 -44 at the half. Ashdod's three foreigners had 14 points combined.
Humphrey celebrated her first shot attempt and in the next possession Moore even arranged for her first points, but Ashdod's offense was stuck and Holon broke away. Zairy hit from deep and Brown scored off offensive rebounds to help them open a 55 -43 lead three minutes in. Ashdod made slight comeback noises as Agasi hit from the line and Elohim hit a three, 50 – 56 with four left in the 3rd, but two minutes later it was a 15 point game again. Zairy used excellent ball pressure to get steals, Curry hit another three, Brown blocked Moore and ran fast breaks with Walker, 65 – 50 with two left in the 3rd. Noa Schor who entered for the first time sealed the quarter with two baskets, 69 – 54 for Holon even though Walker had just two points in the 3rd.
Ashdod showed a glimmer of hope with a rare Humphrey basket and a three point play by Moore to make it 59 – 69, but kept making bad decisions on offense and saw Holon make another run. Walker, Brown & Gilinsky scored inside and Zairy hit a three for the game's biggest lead, 78 – 59, which officially sealed the deal for Holon.
Ednisha Curry 22 pts
Ayana Walker 16 pts, 12 rebs
Shiran Zairy 13 pts, 3 stl
Edwina Brown 12 pts, 9 rebs
Bar Gilinsky 10 pts
Hana Hileli 9 pts
Noa Schor 4 pts
Brasheeda Elohim 15 pts
Bat El Lazmi 13 pts, 5 stl
Tamara Moore 11 pts
Sherill Baker 10 pts
Karin Agasi 7 pts
Jennifer Humphrey 6 pts
Yael Aharonov 4 pts
Nofar Shalom 2 pts
Shiran Zairy & Ednisha Curry