Elitzur Ramle failed to seal its ninth league championship last night, getting whipped at home by Maccabi Ashdod, 66-57.

Ashdod went into the series having finished the regular season in first place, and last night's victory means Thursday's decisive game will be played in front of the team's home fans.

Ramle, on the back of a road win in Game 3 of the series, took full advantage of the momentum to go up in the first quarter, 23-12, on the back of a 17-0 run.

The visitors realized that if they didn't get back into the game quickly, the dream of a first-ever championship would be over by the end of the night. Led by Plenette Pierson, Ashdod dragged itself back into contention and tied the game at 33-33 at half-time.

Neither team played particularly well in the third quarter, which ended with Ashdod edging into a one-point lead, 42-41.

In the final quarter, Pierson took the game in hand, scoring 14 points in the final 10 minutes and ensuring almost single-handedly that the series goes to a fifth and final game on Thursday.

She ended the game with 25 points and 16 rebounds.

First blood to Ashdod

Meanwhile, in the best-of-five quarter-final playoff in the men's Super League, Gilboa/Galil discovered that Israeli teams sometimes provide stiffer competition than continental opponents. Just over a week ago, Gilboa/Galil won the Balkan League crown in front of 2,000 happy fans.

Last night, playing at the same arena and in front of the same fans, Lior Lubin and his crew were unable to call up the determination and grit they showed against Levski Sofia in the Balkan League final and were beaten by Maccabi Ashdod, 77-72.

The home team was out in front in the opening minutes, though, thanks to Joseph Jones and Courtney Fells, who were ably assisted by Dagan Yizvori. For Ashdod, only Josh Carter put up any kind of fight.

In the second half, however, the game changed beyond recognition. Ashdod's captain, veteran point guard Meir Tapiro, came off the bench and took control, almost recording a rare triple- double, ending with 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Ashdod took the lead for the first time at the start of the third quarter and never relinquished it.