In a physical playoff battle with an exciting finish, Ramat Hen survived Temeka Johnson's comeback attempt and won 72 - 70 to secure 2nd place almost completely.
Maccabi Ramat Hen 72 - Raanana Hertzeliya 70
in a game that did not reach a very high level but did provide drama at the end, Ramat Hen got a big win which secures 2nd place and home court advantage in the semis (assuming Raanana Hertzeliya beats Holon). Ramat Hen also has a say in which team they will face. If Ramat Hen loses in Ramla on Thursday, Ramla will climb past Raanana Hertzeliya to 3rd place. Otherwise, Ramla will remain 4th.
Ramat Hen led 33-30 after a very bad 1st half for its backcourt but registered a small victory in holding Charde Houston, the league's 2nd leading scorer, to 0 points against Walker and Pringle's defense. Houston added 4 points in the 2nd half and didn’t play in the closing minutes as Temeka Johnson in a great 4th quarter brought her team back from down 8 to a 68 all tie with under a minute left. Pringle and Shumacher traded baskets, and Raanana Hertzeliya sent Noa Ganor to the line with 17 seconds left. She made both and in the last possession Pringle blocked Johnson in the lane. With 2 seconds left Johnson got space for a 3 but it rolled out.
"I had a tough assignment guarding her, she's one of the best scorers in the league" said Ayana Walker who was excellent tonight especially on defense with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. "We focused on her and I think we did a good job. Yeah they came back in the game but we're still trying to click, it's not easy to come in this late in the season. Once we get our chemistry going, we'll be amazing", said the Bird.
"We don’t have enough weapons to win without Charde, who didn’t show up today" admitted Shiki Falach. "I liked our defense today but on offense we didn’t do enough. In the last 4-5 minutes we made a change and got back in it but the offense didn’t flow. We fouled cause we wanted to have the last possession, but the 3 didn’t go".
Even though only 2 players scored over 2 points and Houston didn’t get any touches inside, Raanana Hertzeliya trailed only 16-19 after 10 rather strange minutes. Ramat Hen raced to a 15-8 lead with points by Michal Epstein and Ivory Latta. Kelly Shumacher who scored 8 out of Raanana Hertzeliya's first 10 points and Johnson who scored 6 in the quarter kept the visitors close, 12-15. 2nd foul on Shumacher was not good news for Shiki Falach, and Shay Doron made it 19-14 before Lena Mustafina's layup set the quarter score.
Raanana Hertzeliya returned without Houston and with Shumacher. Mustafina with 2 threes, one of them a 4-point play, gave the visitors their first lead at 23-19. Walker with her 3rd block and a basket on the other side tried to respond but Katia Abramzon woke up momentarily with 5 points that made it 28-22, 6:40 left in the half. Ramat Hen's timeout ended Raanana Hertzeliya's run and they scored only 2 points the rest of the quarter. Ramat Hen slowly got back in it with good post defense, Walker with a steal and a layup made it 30-28 as Falach called timeout. Raanana Hertzeliya could do nothing right and couldn't get Houston the ball inside, but Ramat Hen in a bad first half on offense also led just 33-30.
Walker and Doron made it 37-30 after one minute but neither team could break away in such a physical, low scoring game. Latta with a shotclock beating basket and Epstein with a wild 3 made it 42-34, but it didn’t last long. Johnson answered with a crazy 3 too and even two quick fouls on Houston, her 3rd and 4th, didn’t stop the visitor's momentum. Both teams played with 1 foreigner on the floor in some not easy to watch minutes. Gigi with her first basket, Johnson on the break and with another three continued Raanana Hertzeliya's run and the score was tied at 48 after 3.
Latta with 2 threes forgot her far from brilliant shooting night and pushed Ramat Hen to a 62-54 advantage with 6 minutes left. Abramzon with a 3 stopped an 11-2 run and cut it to 57-63, before Johnson took over the game. A basket, steal, layup and a huge three suddenly tied the score at 68, with 50 seconds left. Pringle with her 2nd field goal of the game gave Ramat Hen the lead, Shumacher answered, Noa Ganor calmly sank two free throws and Johnson couldn't answer.
For Ramat Hen:
Ivory Latta 20 pts
Ayana Walker 19 pts, 10 rebs
Michal Epstein 15 pts
Shay Doron 11 pts
LaToya Pringle 4 pts
Noa Ganor 2 pts
For Raanana Hertzelia:
Temeka Johnson 24 pts
Kelly Schumacher 16 pts
Lena Mustafina 14 pts
Katia Abramzon 10 pts
Charde Houston 4 pts
Photo: Motti Klinger