Laine Selwyn
Laine Selwyn (right). Photo by Sefi Magriso
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Monday's contest against Maccabi Ashdod should have been Laine Selwyn's. The Elitzur Ramle guard, after all, was the first to win five straight championships since Anat Draigor, 20 years ago. Another typical performance from Selwyn, and Elitzur Ramle would have celebrated the 2012 title at home after Game 4.

Instead, Selwyn had a miserable 40 minutes. She finished the night with four points after hitting just one of eight shots from behind the three-point line and sinking only one of four free throws, and Ramle lost 67-57.

The two teams meet tonight in Ashdod for the decisive Game 5.

It is not Selwyn that Ramle is counting on to pick up her game at the right moment, however, but rather Tanisha Wright, who struggled for six points on Monday.

"Regarding Laine we're at peace with the fact that it's over," a figure close to the team said. "She'll score eight points in the best-case scenario." That assessment is an astonishing contrast to a year ago, when the 30-year-old Coral Springs, Florida native was riding high. Selwyn didn't look her best in the final, but she contributed enough to help Ramle win three pieces of silverware.

Ramle is not as dominant this year and needs the American-Israeli to be at the top of her game, but can't count on her. Her output began declining this past summer, when she averaged just 3.3 points per game on 31 percent shooting with Israel's national team as well as 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 25 minutes per game.

Despite some hesitation Ramle kept Selwyn this season, and she put up respectable numbers - 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Yet Selwyn has not delivered clutch performances as she has in the past.

Selwyn averaged five points against Kayseri Kolejspor of Turkey in the Eurocup Round of 16 in January. Her two consecutive turnovers toward the end of the return leg in Ramle played significantly in Ramle's exit from the competition. In the State Cup semifinal last month against Ramat Hasharon, Ramle tied the game after trailing by 11 points only to lose it in the final 90 seconds as Selwyn turned the ball over and also missed her sixth three-point attempt.

Ramle head coach Adan Inbar defends Selwyn. He says that when the chips are down players should be judged by their involvement, not their success rate. Inbar recruited Selwyn eight years ago to Haifa/Kiryat Motzkin from the University of Pittsburgh. "As long as she takes responsibility, it's alright," he says. "The moment she doesn't, then we have a problem. Laine isn't afraid to make decisions and take shots. Whether the ball goes in or out is a lot of chance."

Despite her performance in Game 4, when Selwyn missed an open three that halted Ramle's comeback momentum, Ashdod head coach Edney Dagan says he won't risk giving her another shot. "If it's a close game, Laine is a player I won't let breathe. She is someone who takes crucial shots without hesitating. It doesn't always go in, but it always might."

In the matchup between point guards, Ashdod's Naomi Kolodny seems to have the edge - 9.7 ppg versus 5.2 for Selwyn and only 1.7 turnovers as opposed to 3.7. Dagan, however, notes that his defense leads to more transition baskets for Kolodny. He adds that Kolodny struggled earlier in the season but has been getting the job done as of late, while the opposite is the case for Selwyn.

And it's not just the numbers. Kolodny looks to be in control, and makes smart decisions. Selwyn looks as if she is really pushing herself. After a turnover or miss, she tries to force a steal or an offensive rebound. Inbar says Selwyn is one of the most motivated players he has ever met. "She complains the practices aren't tough enough," he says. "She's had better series. She's battling and playing with a complicated knee injury and pain. The difference between Laine's current abilities and the great Laine is two three-pointers going in."

Eli Rabi, the national team coach, says Kolodny has been a bit better than Selwyn in the series. He says Selwyn has not declined in accuracy or speed, but rather in her execution. He says that after playing eight years both in the league and on the national team without a break, going deep in every competition, her body does not always cooperate.

Dagan says the departure of Shay Doron after Ramle's Eurocup exit affected Selwyn adversely. "They worked together like Mickey (Berkowitz ) and Motti (Aroesti )," he says. "It's hard for her to adjust without Shay. Shay also draws all the fire, and that allows her to score freely."

Shmulik Levkovitz, the chairman of Ramle, is less forgiving. He says Doron covered for a lot of shortcomings on the team, and Selwyn did not figure as centrally as the team expected she would after Doron's departure. After having her best season last year, she's having her worst this year, he says. "I don't know why. Maybe it's mental exhaustion. It's not working," he says, adding he does not think Selwyn will continue with Ramle next year.