Thomas' Three Ties up Finals
"Game winner? Not since high school and then it wasn't a three", said Christi Thomas who hit a huge three with 2.8 seconds on the clock to lift Ashdod to an 83 – 82 win in game 2. Despite Lacy's triple double Ashdod wasn’t brilliant and trailed for most of the game by as much as 11. But they forced an exciting finish and gave their amazing crowd an enormous victory.
Maccabi Ashdod 83 – Electra Ramat Hasharon 82
Maccabi Ashdod used the limping Christi Thomas' late three to escape a 0 – 2 hole from which there's really no coming back. It's tough to sum up a game which had everything. A comeback from double figures, a wild buzzer beating three to end the 3rd, a triple double, a lot of complaints about officiating by Ashdod, an injury to their starting center who came back to make the deep game winner, even a marriage proposal at a timeout. And all infront of a packed loud house providing incredible basketball atmosphere which we haven't had here since Ramla's days in the old gym.
Ramat Hasharon probably played better for most stages of tonight's game, but the ending was all yellow. In the 3rd the momentum changed as Thomas hurt her ankle and went to the locker room. Without her Ashdod went to a small pressing lineup and tied the game with a 12-1 run, capped by Lacy's one footed NBA range buzzer beating three. Thomas came back in the 4th and hit the go ahead three with 2.8 on the clock. First win ever for Ashdod in the finals.
"With the atmosphere here today, you can't feel out of it. Not with this insanity", said coach Adan Inbar who's team gave new meaning to the cliché "the hard way". "Even when they led we were better, I don’t like to talk of officials… and of course we made a lot of mistakes, me included. The meaning of this win is huge, it's important that Ramat Hasharon understand we can beat them. They came in very confident tonight, in a positive way", he continued. "I'm happy the heart won at the end, it's symbolic that Christi hit that game winner. Looks like this will be a long series, not like everyone thought. We have two good teams and we're going to have a thriller. Next game the pressure is on them", Inbar summed up.
Tonight's hero is of course Thomas, who injured her ankle in the semi finals and hurt it again in the final minutes of the 3rd quarter. She went down to the locker room to get it re-taped and ran back out to the bench in the opening minutes of the 4th, raising the crowd to their feet along the way. She made 3 of 5 threes tonight, with the biggest one coming with 2.8 seconds to play to give Ashdod the 83 – 82 lead. Ramat Hasharon turned the last ball over.
"We needed a basket and I was open, my teammates had faith in me so I didn’t hesistate", said the emotional Thomas. "I need to play differently now because I'm not that fast on the block now. Everyone understands the meaning of being down 0 – 2, if that happened nobody would have believed we can win the series. Now we have a chance, we'll fight and it'll be a long series".
On the red side it was tough to swallow that they let this one slip. Ramat Hasharon led 57 – 46 with three to play in the 3rd before Ashdod erupted and tied it. This after they led by 9 at the half and couldn't break away. They also led 79 – 75 with 1:15 to play, and 81 – 80 with 12 seconds on the clock and Selwyn at the line. It wasn't enough.
"In the first half we led and played smart. In the 3rd they chipped away and we didn’t stop them, didn’t take a timeout. In the final 30 seconds we had the game in our hands but Thomas hit the three", said Orna Ostfeld. "She made her threes today and our game plan is to keep them from scoring inside. But this isn't the first time we lose game 2 on the road. At least we made our sport happy, everyone wants more of this now".
Ramat Hasharon controlled most of the first half as Ashdod had lots to say to the officials who called 14 fouls on them compared to 7 on Ramat Hasharon, creating a 1 – 14 free throw points difference leading to a 36 – 45 halftime score. Their complaints weren't that legit to the objective eye but in the 2nd half the calls against them were much worse. Ashdod led 20 -17 after one led by Lacy who helped create 8 fast break points, but in the 2nd quarter things changed. Ramat Hasharon went to its famous zone, we saw no more yellow fast breaks, Ashdod threw up 15 threes hitting three and Ramat Hasharon stopped every post up attempt with a smart double team. Nine point gap at the half.
Ramat Hasharon couldn’t find their killer instinct to break away in the 3rd as Ashdod raised their defensive intensity and kept the reds on two points for five minutes. Ramat Hasharon missed some good looks from three and on the other end Shwartz made a three point play on the break and Lacy added a three and a dish to Thomas, just 46 – 50. Ramat Hasharon snapped out of the drought with some free trips to the line and Selwyn made it 57 – 46 on a fast break jumper. Thomas hurt her ankle while contesting that shot, but Ashdod changed the momentum in the final two minutes. Threes by Mustafina and Buchris, And 1 from Walker and Lacy's wild buzzer beating three. 58 – 58. Do we have a series now?
The 4th quarter was especially nerve wrecking as the lead switched sides eight times. The excellent Kia Vaughn gave her team a 65 – 61 lead, Nofar Shalom did a great job in Thomas' absence. Inbar made a bunch of offensive-defensive subs, Ashdod responded with two threes by Mustafina and a fast break dish from Lacy to Walker, 73 – 70 yellow. Ramat Hasharon answered with a big three by Selwyn in transition and a steal and layup by Sam, 75 – 73 red. Thomas tied it from the line, Ashdod missed 4 straight three after hitting 3 of 4 to start the 4th, Vaughn made it 79 – 75. Following a timeout with 37 seconds left, Lacy went up quick for a midrange jumper, hit it and drew a foul from Dori who truley didn't deserve it. She hit the free throw, 78 – 79. Ashdod sent Yael Aharonov to the line and she calmly sank two in one of her best games ever. Lacy found Walker for another quick score and Ashdod fouled Selwyn. She only made the 2nd and left the door open.
Now we have a series.
Natasha Lacy 21 pts, 11 rebs, 10 ast
Christi Thomas 19 pts
Ashley Walker 16 pts
Lena Mustafina 9 pts
Nofar Shalom 7 pts
Rivi Grinboym, Ornit Shwartz & Liran Buchris 3 pts each
Shiran Zairy 2 pts
For Ramat Hasharon:
Kia Vaughn & Sheri Sam 18 pts and 9 rebs each
Laine Selwyn 17 pts, 6 ast
Ambrosia Anderson 12 pts
Yael Aharonov 9 pts
Merav Dori 8 pts