|Israel international and Elitzur's natutal leader Shay Doron put on another great display in the second leg of the final|
By Jeff Taylor
Nothing beats the high of winning a title.
That was the feeling of Elitzur Ramla coach Adan Inbar and his players after the club's 61-53 triumph at Arras on Thursday night, a result that allowed the Israeli outfit to lift the EuroCup Women.
With the first leg having finished 61-61 the week before, Ramla travelled to France and held on for a thrilling victory against a very good Arras team for a 122-114 aggregate success.
"Thursday night was my greatest moment as a coach," Inbar said to Basketball World News.
"All the hard work from my staff, the club and the players came together in one game - the final game.
"To see everyone's faces so happy made this whole season my most memorable as a coach!"
Shay Doron, one of the Israel internationals in the Ramla side, was ecstatic.
"I feel right now on top of the world!" she said to Basketball World News.
"I always wanted to win a championship, and with an Israeli club, it makes the win so much more amazing!
"We, as a club, have had such a fun and successful season.
"To end it this way is simply perfect!"
Bruno Blier's Arras will look back at the first leg as the turning point in the Finals.
They had led in Israel by 12 points in the fourth quarter yet left Ramla with no advantage.
Arras seemed to push aside that disappointment when storming into a 13-5 lead in the second leg on Thursday.
|Le'Coe Willingham played almost the entire game in France, and she finished as Ramla's top scorer and rebounder |
They were in front 16-9 after an Olesia Malashenko three-point play early in the second quarter, but that's when Ramla shifted into a higher gear.
Doron, an NCAA champion during her college days with the Maryland Terrapins, hit a jump shot and not long after, Le'Coe Willingham drilled a three-ball before two Tanasha Wright free-throws knotted the game at 16-16.
Sarah Michel made a lay-up for Arras to stop the run, but not the rot because a free-throw by veteran forward Ornit Shwartz ignited a 13-0 run for Ramla that gave them a 29-18 advantage.
Arras never quit.
The French town's fans, swept away in a basketball euphoria like never before because of the team's unexpected run to the Finals, helped their team battle back.
A pair of Krissy Bade free-throws and a Malashenko jumper reduced the Ramla advantage to 45-41 by the end of the quarter.
With 5:12 remaining, Pauline Akonga sank two free-throws to cut the Ramla lead to 49-45.
Rivi Grinboym swung the momentum back to Ramla, however, by nailing a three-pointer.
Arras refused to die.
When Leilani Mitchell made a pair at the charity stripe with 21 seconds to go, the French had trailed 58-53 and had a glimmer of hope.
Inbar called a timeout for Ramla and when play resumed, the French fouled Doron and she calmly sank both free-throws.
Shwartz added another for the eight-point win.
Ramla's players left the bench and ran onto the court with Inbar to celebrate.
"I will never forget this season and this feeling I had after the game!" Inbar said.
"Arras is a great, great team and club with a great coach and I have a lot for respect for them.
"Because of this, I was focused until the last two seconds of the game."
The late timeout was needed, Inbar said.
"I wanted to make sure there was no way the game could slip away before I began to celebrate!"
There was disappointment in Arras.
The club was trying to become the first in France to win a European trophy since 2004, the year when Valenciennes won the EuroLeague Women.
There is no overstating the importance of the championship for Ramla and Israel, though.
"It means a lot for our sport and for our club," Doron said.
"We have gotten so much media attention - more than ever in women's sports - and so much support from Israelis that it makes us feel great.
"We, as a club, represent our town and Israel and the people here are proud of us."