The Israel Netball finals turned out to be a pair of nail-biters, as Katamon withstood a second-half run by Tel Aviv to claim its first championship and Jerusalem Mercaz held off Jtown in a topsy-turvy contest for third place.
Jtown’s Shan Berman was named MVP at the prize-giving ceremony, while Katamon’s Yisca Silberg won most improved player honor and Ra’anana’s Robyn Ginsberg claimed the sportsmanship award.
Playing for its second gold medal, Tel Aviv led the standings after all 10 matches of the season had been played.
The team faced the Katamon youngsters – most of whom had played in the World Youth Championships in 2013 in Glasgow, where they delighted the crowds with their passion and enthusiasm. Many of these players are currently doing National Service and therefore do not have the opportunity to practice together, and so were understandably a little apprehensive. Some of them simply come along to other teams’ practice sessions whenever they can. However, they were encouraged by the presence of their coach Chani Komar, who had only a few days before giving birth to her daughter Noga.
With only seven players on their team, Tel Aviv trailed in the first quarter, scoring eight goals to Katamon’s 13. The more experienced Tel Avivians did better in the next quarter, but Katamon still led 20-17 at half-time.
Tel Aviv’s determination shone through in the third quarter, taking a 28-27 lead by the end of the period. The fourth quarter was a real cliff-hanger, with the goal-scoring alternating between the teams and the possibility of a draw at full-time becoming more and more real.
At the final whistle, however, the Katamon girls and their numerous supporters were the ones left jumping up and down and hugging each other, with the scoreboard showing 38-36 in their favor.
In the third-place game, Jerusalem Mercaz rallied to defeat Jtown 37-35. The lead changed hands several times during the match, with Jtown holding on to a narrow margin for much of the time. Trailing 11-8 after the first period, Jtown came back strongly in the second quarter to lead 28-27 at half-time. The lead changed hands again before Jtown went ahead 35-33 with fewer than four minutes to go, but Mercaz shut down Jtown from that point on.
After Mercaz took a 36-35 lead, Jtown drove down to tie it back up and perhaps force overtime. However, players on both sides committed simultaneous penalties, forcing a toss-up. Mercaz won control, and although the crowd was calling for the team to merely hold on to the ball for the closing seconds, the team brought the ball down and scored a final insurance goal to seal the victory.
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