Ramle fights back, opens final with tie

Doron & co. finish strong in first leg vs Arras; 2nd leg next week; Tel Aviv rolls over Rishon Lezion.

Womens basketball Elitzur Ramle 311 (photo credit: FIBA Europe website)
Womens basketball Elitzur Ramle 311
(photo credit: FIBA Europe website)
Elitzur Ramle’s hopes of claiming an historic European title are hanging in the balance after the first leg of the Eurocup final against Arras of France on Thursday night ended in a 61-61 tie in Ramle.
The Israelis trailed by as many as 12 points in the final quarter, but fought back to tie the game with seven seconds to play and now need to win the return leg in France next Thursday to become the first Israeli women’s basketball team to lift a continental title.
“We will need to play much better next week,” Ramle coach Adan Inbar said. “I must admit that we didn’t play well tonight and now we will have to win on the road.”
Le’Coe Willingham led Ramle with 23 points and seven rebounds, with Tanasha Wright adding 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Shay Doron left the game with an ankle injury in the first period, but came back to score nine points for Ramle, which hit an abysmal 9.5 percent from three-point range (2 of 21).
Olesia Malashenko had 18 points for Arras, which has won all six of its home games in the Eurocup so far this season.
Both teams struggled to find the basket at the start the game, with the score tied at 6-6 after more than eight minutes of action.
However, Arras would be the first to find its range, going on a 7-0 run, capped by a Malashenko three-pointer, in the final 48 seconds of the first period to take a 13-8 lead into the second quarter after scoring just six points in the first nine minutes.
A Sarah Michel triple extended the margin to 11 points (22-11) with 6:40 to play in the first half, but the hosts limited the damage slightly by the break, trailing 33-26 at halftime.
A Wright lay-up midway through the third period brought Ramle within a single point (37-36), but Arras opened an eight-point gap (45-37) by the end of the frame and Malashenko’s basket with just over seven minutes remaining gave the visitors a record 12-point lead (51-39).
However, Ramle slowly ate away at the deficit and Willingham’s basket with seven seconds to play tied the score at 61-61, and the tie is wide open ahead of next week’s second leg.
Also Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Maccabi Rishon Lezion 80-72 in BSL action in Holon in a game brought forward from Sunday to help the yellow-and-blue prepare for its Euroleague quarterfinal playoff series against Caja Laboral Vitoria, which begins next Tuesday.
“We didn’t play well tonight in large periods of the game and we will need to learn from this ahead of next week,” said Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, whose team has won 15 straight league games. “We will have to be at our best to have a chance to win a game in Vitoria next week.”
Chuck Eidson had 19 points for Maccabi, with David Blu and Lior Eliyahu adding 15 points each.
Raymar Morgan scored 21 points for Rishon, which has lost four of five games.
Rishon opened an early nine-point advantage (15-6) thanks to a Morgan basket, but Maccabi scored the next nine points to tie the game and ended the first half with a 24-5 run to establish a comfortable 14-point cushion (43-29) at the break.
Rishon closed to within three points (47-44) midway through the third frame, but the yellow-and-blue seemed to always be in control and an 11-0 run gave it a 68-53 lead early in the fourth quarter which it was never going to lose.