Ashdod trailed through out the game and was down 9 with 10 minutes left, before an impressive defensive display turned things around. Ramat Hen again let a game slip in the 4th quarter, and Ashdod won 72-68 to make their first ever Cup Finals appearance.
Ashdod 72 - Ramat Hen 68
"I'm a big believer that rebound brings titles, and defense brings titles" said Edni Dagan after the game. Ashdod allowed just 3 field goals in the 4th quarter, the last of which coming with 18 seconds left after the game was already decided. On the boards Ashdod won 43 - 24. There's no question, it feels like this is going to be their year.
Just like the regular season meetings between the two teams, Ashdod killed Ramat Hen on the boards but still found themselves down double figures during the 3rd quarter and trailing by 9 to start the 4th. Ashdod turned up the defense in the final quarter, made an 18-4 run to go up 67 - 62 with 1 minute to play. Ramat Hen, who managed just 3 field goals the entire 4th quarter, could not recover.
"We knew that if we kept fighting we can come back, we've been down before by even more and came back so we couldn’t give up", said Tamara Young who was everywhere tonight and led her team with 16 points. "We kept telling each other to keep fighting, help out, rotate and just have a lot of energy, that was the main thing", she added.
"History will be if we take the cup, making it to the finals is nice" said Edni Dagan. "We should have won by 20 with such an advantage on the boards, Shiki did a great job. We're more physical than them, and Tamara creates our balance on defense. I'm very happy", he concluded.
"The rebound killed us, they had a lot more possessions than we did", said Shiki Falach. "When they pressed we played away from the basket instead of going inside to break it. I knew that once Ashdod gets back in it the monkey from the last game will appear on our shoulder. At the end the ball should have gone to Charde, but it didn't. We didn't play smart down the stretch", said Falach. Houston finished the game with 16 points, 12 of them in the 2nd quarter. "I'm proud of my team and how they played after a difficult month for all of us", he added.
"We really, really, really wanted to make the finals" said Nomi Kolodny, who lost with Ashdod to Ramat Hen at the cup semis last year. "It didn't look good for us most of the game but at some point we just collected ourselves and we knew it's all about defense", said Kolodny who was one of 5 players in double digits for Ashdod with 11 points. "I have to put in a good word for our fans, it's so much fun to play before them. I've been in quite a few teams and I don't remember anything like it", she added, Ashdod's fans definitely deserve it.
"It means a lot for us, this is how we can give back to the management for everything they do and of course the fans, who were amazing today" said Plenette Pierson. "When we were down and not doing so well they screamed and cheered and it really helped. In the 4th we just turned in on and played Maccabi Ashdod defense. It's all about hussle, we gave it everything we had and it frustrated Ramat Hen a little", said Pierson who was responisble for 4 impressive rejections.
Ramat Hen trailed 13-12 after 10 minutes but led 36-31 at the hald thanks to 56% shooting from 2pt range that compensated for an 11-24 deficit on the boards. Shiran Zairy in a very good game helped her team go up 42 - 35 in the 3rd, Ashdod came back to tie itat 42 but Ramat Hen ended the quarter up 56-47.
Houston made it 58-47 to start the 4th quarter but from there on out Ashdod took over with their stifiling defense during an 18-4 run to make it 67-62 with under a minute to play.
For Maccabi Ashdod:
Tamera Young 16 pts, 7 rebs, 5 ast
Ashley Shields 15 pts, 6 rebs
Brittany Denson 13 pts, 10 rebs
Plenette Pierson 13 pts, 8 rebs, 4 blocks
Naomi Kolodny 11 pts, 7 rebs, 4 ast
Ortal Oren 2 pts
Merav Dori 2 pts
For Maccabi Ramat Hen:
Shiran Zairy 19 pts
Charde Houston 16 pts
Kelsey Griffin 14 pts, 5 rebs
Danielle Robinson 14 pts, 8 ast
Limor Pelleg 3 pts
Darxia Morris 2 pts
Young & Shields
Photo by: Motti Klinger