Ramat Hen led 64 – 51 with eight to play. Ramla responded with a huge 13 – 0 run and squeezed it out in double overtime, 95 – 91, grabbing a 2 – 0 chokehold on the series. Ramla had many heros from Sam who scored 11 in the 2nd OT to Ogorodnikova who was superb on both ends. Ramla beat Ramat Hen in their own game and played like winners. Ramat Hen did the opposite.
Elizur Ramla 95 – Maccabi Ramat Hen 91 (2OT)
The fifth meeting between these teams also ended by four or less but it made the previous ones look like blowouts. Ramla showed a lot of heart and incredible mental strength to climb out of a bunch of holes before getting a very critical win and a 2 – 0 lead in the best of 5 semi final series. Ramat Hen led by 11 in the first quarter and let Ramla back. Ramat Hen led 64 – 51 with eight to play and watched Ramla set up the nail biting finish with a 13 – 0 run. Ramat Hen led 69 – 64 with three to play and Ramla charged back as Ogorodnikova hit a huge three, 71 – 71 with 50 seconds to go. Neither team was able to win it and on to overtime, well overtimes, we went.
In the first OT no team was able to lead by more than two. Latta hit Epstein with a behind the back pass and she made one from the line to give her team a 76 – 74 lead with 2:30 to go. Katia Levistky who just checked in made a deep jumper to tie it and on the other end Doron, who scored 10 of her 16 in the first half, missed a tough three. Ramla kept going to Moore down low on Latta and she drew a foul to retake the lead, 78 – 76. Both teams couldn't get a good shot off but Latta hit a long jumper to tie it, 34 seconds to go. Levitsky missed with 15 left, Latta turned it over and Sam missed from half court. Drama continues.
Levitsky hit a huge shot clock beating three to give Ramla the lead for good, 83 – 80. Sam made two free thows, Moore scored on Latta inside as Epstein didn’t come to help. Moore went inside again and grabbed her own rebound to dish to Sam for another huge three, 90 – 84 with 1:36 left. Ramla hit enough free throws and Ramat Hen had enough turnovers and misses to put an end to the drama and probably seal the series. Pringle's and 1 cut it to 94 – 91 but with 11 seconds left, it was too late for Ramat Hen to save the game. It might be too late to save the season.
"This team just doesn't break. Ramat Hen led by 13 with eight to go and my team of veterans started pressing and getting steals", said Eli Rabi as the dust began to settle. "I salute them. Most of our team is made up of players other teams released. We won tonight with a lot of blood, sweat and tears", he added. "I have no problem with being the favorites now. We know what we have to do to complete the job but it won't be easy".
Ramat Hen of course should never have let this come down to the final moments but they just couldn't hold on to a lead. Even though this was their best game in a long time, way too many of their big possessions ended up in the hands of players who shouldn't be shooting in these situations. Definitely not on a team with Ivory Latta & Shay Doron. "We're losers", said Doron who sugar coated nothing. "We had this game in our hands twice at least. We don't know how to win. Stupid decisions, misses under the basket. Instead of stepping up and saying we're winning this game in the last six minutes, we made a mistake on offense and a mistake on defense and that's the way it ended. We didn't deserve to win tonight because we had the game and we gave it away".
Ramla, who finally enjoyed some fan support, opened with a 7 – 0 run in 90 seconds. Ramat Hen recovered thanks to 10 first quarter points by Latta who finally arrived. Doron hit a three to spark a 14 – 0 run as Ramat Hen held Ramla scoreless for five minutes, 24 – 15 after one. In the 2nd quarter Ramla made Ramat Hen pay for their sagging zone with no less than five threes – two by Moore, two by Ogorodnikova and one by Letisky – to erase the deficit completely. Ramat Hen still managed to get a couple of fast breaks to take a 38 – 34 halftime lead. Ramat Hen could've been pleased with the tempo and 15 fast break points. But Ramla had more to smile about. They took what the defense gave them, made 8 for 22 from downtown and stayed right in it, with the excellent Ogorodnikova leading the way.
Sheri Sam, who scored just three points in the first half, made a three and a long jumper against Ramat Hen's zone to give Ramla the lead back, 43 – 40. Ramat Hen answered with threes by Ganor and Latta who hasn’t scored since the 1st, 48 – 45, and the see-saw continued. Doron drew a foul on a drive and also caused Eli Rabi to pick up a technical. She made 3 of 4 at the line to make it 55 – 51 after three.
Walker inside and Doron with a three and two assists to Pringle & Epstein created the game's biggest lead, 64 – 51, eight minutes to play. Ramla wasn't going to give up and they made an awesome 13 – 0 run. Ogorodnikova hit two shots to make it single digits. Sam had an assist, a basket and a huge three to get the crowd on their feet and cut it to 62 – 64, five minutes to play. Ramat Hen kept getting to the end of the shot clock and looked hesitant and scared in a 4 and a half minute drought. Doron found Walker on a pick and roll play to end the drought and Latta with a good three made it 69 – 64, three to play. Ramla came back again as Wabara scored inside and Gourevitch sank an open jumper. Walker drew a foul and Ramat Hen up 71 – 68 with 1:40 to go, just like in game 1, and Ramla recovered again as Ogorodnikova buried a huge three with 50 seconds to play. For some reason Ramat Hen went Esptein who missed but Walker got the board. Walker got the ball back at mid range for some reason, she missed and Ramla had 10 seconds left. Sam's shot wouldn't go but she made sure nobody remembers that. She scored 11 in the 2nd overtime, 2 – 0 in the series.
Ramat Hen now obviously has to win at home on Monday to stay alive and prevent the league's most surprising sweep ever. Rest assured that they know a comeback is not impossible, since just one year ago they became the first team ever to have a 2 – 0 lead and lose the series.
Lena Ogorodnikova 25 pts, 11 rebs
Sheri Sam 23 pts, 7 rebs
Tamara Moore 15 pts, 11 rebs
Ina Gourevitch 14 pts
Katia Levitzky 10 pts
Abiola Wabara 8 pts
For Ramat Hen:
Ivory Latta 24 pts
Ayana Walker 23 pts, 7 rebs
LaToya Pringle 17 pts, 9 rebs
Shay Doron 16 pts, 6 rebs, 6 ast
Michal Epstein 9 pts
Noa Ganor 3 pts
Ramla edged Ramat Hen
Photo by: Motti Klinger