Pierson MVP, Bogatin Coach of the year
Safsal ,03/31/2012
'Safsal's traditional end of season Coaches survey left no room for doubt regarding the Player of the year and Coach of the year. The coaches also selected the league's 1st Team and Breakout season, you might be surprised to find out which team has no representation.

Coach of the Year – Rafi Bogatin, Ha'Bikaa
Sometimes leading your team to 1st place and winning a historic Cup title isn't enough for coach of the year. Edni Dagan did receive 3 votes in the annual Coaches Poll, but the winner was the coach that accomplished most with less.

HaBikaa, in their 1st season in Division I and 3rd ever, made the playoff semi finals after a truly impressive season which included wins over the top 3 teams – Ashdod, Ramat Hasharon & Ramla. Bogatin got 8 votes from his piers after turning a group of relatively unknown Americans & Israeli role players into a cohesive motivated unit. Aside from Jenna Smith the team had no big stars. They did it with strong team defense, commitment, motivation and good decision making in clutch situations – or in other words – pretty good coaching.

2011/12 Season MVP – Plenette Pierson, Maccabi Ashdod
You won't find Pierson in the league's Top 10 of any major statistical category, aside for blocks. She doesn’t lead her team in scoring (15.6 per game, Shields scored 18.5) or in rebounding (7.1 per game, Denson leads with 8.7), but she still received 6 votes from the coaches and was named the league MVP.

Why? Those who know her already know the answer. Pierson's significance doesn't show up only on the stat sheet, her personality can jell your team or break it apart. In every team she plays for, Pierson's commitment is total and she expects the same from her surroundings. She is as perfectionist as they come, she doesn't handle losing too well, she speaks her mind and is not easy to deal with but if you succeed – it pays off big time. Pierson did whatever she had to do this season to help Ashdod win, she accepted that she doesn't need to do everything and made the difference with determination, leadership, and when it really counted. That's why she's the MVP, and Ashdod is the favorite for the Championship.

Other vote getters: Ashley Shields (2), Alysha Clark (1), Karima Christmas (1), Cetera DeGraffenreid (1)

2011/12 First Team
Plenette Pierson, Maccabi Ashdod
Pierson received 8 votes for the 1st team out of possible 10 (since coaches can't vote in their own players)

Alysha Clark, Ramat Hasharon

The 24-year-old Clark received 9 votes from the coaches, one more than Pierson. Does anyone even remember she suffered an early season injury that caused her two miss 2.5 games and basically be out of it for a month? Despite that Clark finished the season averaging 15.1 points and 8.2 rebounds a night, and became Ramat Hasharon's most consistent and important player. Clark shot 54.3% from 2-point range and 39.2% from three, 6th best in the league in both categories, while leading Ramat Hasharon to 2nd place in the standings.

Karima Christmas, Raanana Hertzeliya

Christmas was without a doubt one of the best players to play in Israel this season, she earned 6 votes for the 1st team and mark our words, she's going to be a big star very soon. The 22-year-old 6'0 Christmas found herself battling in the paint against the league's toughest posts as a result of her team being the only team in the league that was forced to play with 2 Israelis on the court at all times, due to a ridiculous decision made by the mayors of Raanana & Hertzeliya.

Christmas finished the season averaging 19.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, 5th in the league in both categories, despite playing just 32.5 minutes per game (29th in the league). Raanana Hertzeliya finished in 6th place with a 10-10 record, an amazing achievement considering the circumstances. 8 of the losses came at the hands of the much more talented Ashdod, Ramat Hasharon, Ramla & Ramat Hen, meaning against all the other teams in the league Raanana Hertzeliya was an incredible 10 – 2. A great deal of the credit goes to Christmas, who simply carried her team on her shoulders. Few people believed they would escape 9th place and the lower playoffs, let alone finish 6th.

Jenna Smith, Ha'bikaa

The Bikaa's center was the most efficient player in the league with 25.2 efficiency average, what more is there to say? Smith led her team in scoring with 19.1 per game (7th in the league, 55.4% from 2-point range) and added 11.4 rebounds per game (4th in the league), she was Rafi Bogatin's sure bet all year long. Also worth noting her 87.2% from the free throw line, 3rd in the league and 1st among the posts. Smith received 5 votes from the coaches, and probably should have gotten some MVP considerations.

Ashley Shields, Maccabi Ashdod

We admit it, we had our doubts whether Shields, the league's top scorer with Natanya last season, would fit into the puzzle in a team like Ashdod. We weren't sure if she isn't a better fit as the superstar player on a smaller team. Shields in response improved her shooting percentage for 2, cut down on her turnovers, upped her steals and defensive game and earned 5 votes for the league's 1st Team.

Shields led Ashdod in scoring with 18.5 points per game (8th in the league) while shooting a league-best 57.2% from inside the arc. Shields was deadly in the open court, if we kept statistics for points off turnovers she'd probably lead that too. Shields added 3.1 steals (3rd in the league) and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Other vote getters:: Kaili McLaren (3), Angie Bjorklund (2), Sherill Baker (3), Nomi Kolodny (2), Amanda Thompson (2), Tanisha Wright (2), Alexis Grey-Lawson (1), Shay Doron (1), Amber Holt (1), Shani Levi (1), Bar Gilinski (1), Michal Epstein (1), Sheri Sam (1), Cetera DeGraaffenreid (1)

Breakout season: Roni Ben Nun, Natanya

The 22-year-old guard for Natanya became a legit starter this season and improved from 13.6 minutes and 2.9 points per game last season to 30.2 minutes and 7.2 points per game this season. She registered a season high of 17 points in round 12, and scored 10 or more in 7 different games this season – compared to none last year. Ben Nun received 4 votes from the coaches.

Other vote getters: Shiri Porat (2), Liran Buchris (1), Hadar Gutin (1), Dana Yahalomi (1), Nofar Shalom (1), Shani Levi (1)

Coaches picks breakdown
Edni Dagan, Ashdod
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Karima Christmas
1st team: Angie Bjorklund, Sherill Baker, Alysha Clark, Tanisha Wright, Karima Christmas
Breakout: Hadar Gutin

Orna Ostfeld, Ramat Hasharon
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Nomi Kolodny, Sheri Sam, Karima Christmas, Plenette Pierson, Jenna Smith
Breakout: Shiri Porat

Adan Inbar, Ramla
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Ashley Shields
1st team: Ashely Shields, Plenette Pierson, Alysha Clark, Amber Holt, Jenna Smith
Breakout: Roni Ben Nun

Rafi Bogatin, HaBikaa
Coach: Edni Dagan
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Sherill Baker, Ashley Shields, Karima Christmas, Plenette Pierson, Kaili McLaren
Breakout: Shiri Porat

Shiki Falach, Ramat Hen
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Shay Doron, Alysha Clark, Karima Christmas, Jenna Smith, Plenette Pierson
Breakout: Roni Ben Nun

Dahlia Bushinsky , Raanana Hertzeliya
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Jenna Smith, Plenette Pierson, Alysha Clark, Ashley Shields, Kaili McLaren
Breakout: Roni Ben Nun

Shira Haelyon, Rishon Lezion
Coach: Edni Dagan
MVP: Alysha Clark
1st team: Nomi Kolodny, Shani Levi, Bar Gilinski, Michal Epstein, Alysha Clark
Breakout: Roni Ben Nun

Zohar Riezman, Natanya
Coach: Edni Dagan
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Plenette Pierson, Karima Christmas, Ashley Shields, Alysha Clark, Amanda Thompson
Breakout: Liran Buchris

Gil Sela, Petak Tikva
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Plenette Pierson, Ashley Shields, Alysha Clark, Jenna Smith, Amanda Thompson
Breakout: Nofar Shalom

Roi Izenberg, Hapoel Tel Aviv
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Ashley Shields
1st team: Ashley Shields, Alysha Clark, Karima Christmas, Kaili McLaren, Tanisha Wright
Breakout: Shani Levi

Vito Glichm Holon
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Cetera DeGraffenried
1st team: Cetera DeGraffenried, Angie Bjoklund, Alexis Grey-Lawson, Alysha Clark, Plenette Pierson
Breakout: Dana Yahalomi

Safal's Picks
Coach: Rafi Bogatin
MVP: Plenette Pierson
1st team: Plenette Pierson, Alysha Clark, Karima Christmas, Ashley Shields, Jenna Smith
Breakout: Shiri Portat

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Plenette Pierson
Photos: Motti Klinger

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