It was just last March that Elitzur Ramle was the toast of Israel.

Ramle became the first Israeli women’s hoops team to lift a European title, winning the Eurocup, continental basketball’s second most prestigious competition.

The women’s team gave Ramle another claim to fame besides its crime and unemployment rate, and the future looked extremely bright.

However, as things currently stand, the club may not have any future at all.

The new women’s hoops season got underway on Monday night, but Ramle’s game against Elitzur Netanya was postponed as the former was unable to meet the Budget Control Authority’s requirements due to its dire financial situation.

Ramle’s debts are estimated to be over NIS 1 million and the team notified FIBA that it is pulling out of the Eurocup on Sunday, two games into its campaign, as it cannot afford to pay for its travel.

Coach Adan Inbar hasn’t guided the team in training in recent days as he hasn’t been paid his salary and is owed money from previous seasons and the likes of star players Shay Doron and Americans Natasha Lacey and Ashley Walker will not tolerate much more uncertainty before they move on to earn a living elsewhere.

Ramle had every reason to expect that its success would attract more sponsors and allow it to go on and achieve bigger and better things. But it quickly discovered that optimism is a luxury which inevitably backfires in women’s sports in Israel.

Rather than multiplying, the sponsors dried out, and the writing was on the wall once the local municipality cut its backing.

Nevertheless, the club’s management hoped to make ends meet somehow, and Ramle even won the preseason Winner Cup last week.

But it still couldn’t avoid insolvency, and assuming no mystery backer shows up in the coming days, it faces a decision between two options, a bad one, and another that is even worse.

The club could try and cut its expenses as much as possible by releasing players and staff in the hope of remaining afloat, avoiding relegation and starting next season with a balanced budget.

While battling for its survival in the top flight may sound like a nightmare to Ramle fans that are used to seeing their team fighting for championships, it is far better than the second option which would see the club go into liquidation and start anew in the second division with what is currently its B team.

As dejecting as Ramle’s demise is, it is only another symptom of the general decline of women’s sports in Israel.

Perhaps the most depressing part of all is that the basketball top flight has long been regarded as the crown jewel of the women’s leagues, being the only true professional one in the country.

But even should Ramle overcome its struggles, there will only be nine teams in the top flight this season as the league couldn’t even find a 10th club to join.

And to think that the state of the basketball league is vastly better than that of the soccer, handball and volleyball women’s leagues which are essentially completely amateur.

Ramle’s triumph in the Eurocup last year was a truly proud moment for Israeli sports.

However, its dramatic downfall to the brink of extinction is a significant blow to the prospect of real progress being made in women’s sports.

After all, if Ramle can’t keep its head above water, what chance has any other team got of long-term success? The way things are going, it won’t be long before all genuine hope for a better future will be lost, and when that happens, the days in which an Israeli women’s team won a European title will seem like no more than a distant memory.

allon@jpost.com

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