A fired-up Phard Napoli ended Anda Ramat Hasharon's FIBA Europe Cup hopes on Saturday night. Playing in front of 2,500 home fans, Napoli produced an emotionally charged performance and swept to victory behind a strong second half showing.
While it was the visitors who had the better start to the game, Napoli always seemed to want the win a little bit more than their opponents.
"There was a lot of pressure on us and we were afraid this would effect our performance," said Napoli coach Roberto Ricchini. "But we managed to use it to our advantage and we fought really hard to win this match. So the pressure really helped us to win."
Napoli trailed for the opening 8 minutes, before Sara Giauro hit 2 free throws to give them their first lead of the game, 19-17.
The score remained close in the second period, before Napoli opened up a small gap at the end of the half, 37-32.
Ramat Hasharon were seriously handicapped by the absence of guard Candace Futrell, who was averaging 15 ppg and 6 rpg in FIBA Europe Cup Women action. Futrell suffered an ankle injury just before the competition and was unable to travel.
"Our game plan was to go inside and use our big players," said Ramat Hasharon Coach Orna Ostfeld. "Their team did a very good job defending our big players by helping with the guards and Chesity Melvin didn't have her best game today. And of course we missed Futrell to open the game with her penetration and passing."
Ramat Hasharon's strategy paid off in the opening half, as Melvin and Petra Ujhelyi were able to dominate the boards against an undersized Napoli front line.
But French national team center Nicole Antibe upped her game in the second quarter, scoring 6 points and making a significant contribution to Napoli taking the lead.
While Napoli went from strength to strength in the second half, Ramat Hasharon visibly wilted. Within 1 minute underway in the third quarter, Napoli had opened up a double digit lead (42-33), an advantage they were comfortably able to maintain until the end of the game.
Maria Andrade top scored for Napoli with 15 points and Antibe added 14 on 6/8 shooting.