Anda Ramat Hasharon's European dream came to an end Thursday evening after losing to Spartak Moscow 73-69 in the EuroCup quarterfinal second leg at the Oranim Arena.
The Israelis had lost the first leg in Russia last week by seven points and on Thursday, despite leading by as many as eight points at one stage, the hosts were unable to hold on for the required victory.
The game was a close affair for the full 40 minutes, with neither team managing to open up a substantial lead. The turning point for Ramat Hasharon came seven minutes from the end of the game, when center Cheryl Ford fouled out of the game with the score tied.
Ford (16 points and eight rebounds) was Ramat Hasharon's best player on the night, and the only player able to slow down Spartak star Lisa Leslie. The WNBA legend battled Ford all night for supremacy under the baskets but as soon as Anda's center left the game Leslie (16 points and 14 rebounds) had everything her own way and the hosts lost any chance of winning the match.
"Ramat Hasharon is a very strong team and you can't take anything away from them," said Leslie after the game.
Ramat Hasharon coach Orna Ostfeld found it difficult to hide her frustration at the end of the game. "Our disappointment began in Moscow, where we wanted to win so we wouldn't be forced to chase Spartak at home," she said.
Despite the letdown of losing to the Russians twice in one week, Ostfeld was still upbeat about her team's European run.
"We had a great European season, but we need to move on because tomorrow is a new day,"she said. "I told my players that I'm very proud of them."
Ramat Hasharon guard Deanna Nolan had a disappointing game by her standards, scoring only 12 points.
Both teams were tense at the start of the game and the tight first quarter ended in an 18-17 lead for the visitors. Ramat Hasharon improved its defensive play in the second quarter and went on a 9-0 run in the first five minutes of the period. The run gave the hosts the desired eight-point lead but it wouldn't last for long.
Spartak quickly closed in on Ramat Hasharon and the half ended in a 38-36 lead for the hosts. The third period was just as close as the first half, but a late surge by the visitors gave them a 56-52 lead.
Ramat Hasharon went all out in the final period in search for the elusive victory, but as soon as Ford left the game the hosts had no real chance of winning by the required margin and eventually lost the game by four points.