It took two overtimes and a lot of jangled nerves before Hapoel Rishon Letzion emerged the winner of its Premier League semifinal series against handball rival ASA Tel Aviv, setting up a derby final with Maccabi Rishon.
Although ASA Tel Aviv won the game 32-27, Rishon advanced on goal difference after the three-game series was tied 1-1-1.
Rishon's victory also meant there would be no repeat of last year's final between ASA Tel Aviv and defending champion Maccabi Rishon.
Needing to win by at least eight goals after drawing the first match and losing Saturday night 36-29, host Tel Aviv got off to a quick start but found itself stuck early in the second half with a seven goal lead.
Rishon closed the gap to 24-18 at the 27:21 mark and turned to a defensive strategy of tying up Tel Aviv's players. Time was literally running out on Tel Aviv's season when Dan Nathan scored with one second left to make it 25-18 and force the first overtime.
Rishon had lost a player to a red card toward the end of regulation, and the last-second goal boosted Tel Aviv's morale. Tel Aviv had the game in hand, 28-20 with 10 seconds, left when Viorel Mazilu inexplicably tried to score. Rishon got the missed ball, ran up court and scored as time expired to cut the lead back to seven.
Their confidence restored, Rishon kept the lead down to four to five goals to close out the series.
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