Once Upon a Time / 1969: Hapoel TA's Women's Team Gets Do-over in Europe

Regardless of the campaign's result, Hapoel Tel Aviv was the first women's team to represent Israel in the Women's European Champions Cup.

On November 6, 1969 the women's basketball team of Hapoel Tel Aviv got a second shot at European play.

Hapoel Tel Aviv, now called Hapoel Hatikva Tel Aviv, was the first women's team to represent Israel in the Women's European Champions Cup in January 1962, but the campaign ended in disaster. Slava Sofia beat Hapoel Tel Aviv by a cumulative 85 points over two games to send the Israelis packing.

Seven years later Hapoel Tel Aviv won another local title to earn a pair of qualifying games against Rapid Bucharest. Yael Piekrash was the only remaining player from the 1962 edition on the 1969 squad.

"This time we have an excellent roster," she said at the time. "The team is not based just on seven or eight women. We have four or five experienced players who have alongside them several talented young players who are no worse than the veterans."

Piekrash's assessment seemed correct in the first game, which took place on the new court in northern Tel Aviv, which would later be called Ussishkin. In the final minutes, Rachel Taub - the main star with 16 points - fouled out, followed by Noga Rotenberg (1.85-meters tall ) and Piekrash. However, a 19-year old who had arrived the previous year from Kibbutz Glil Yam named Leah (Laike ) Melamed saved the situation. She scored all eight of Hapoel's points in the final minutes to rally the team from 53-52 down to win 60-59. The November 6 game constituted a historic victory of an Israeli team over an Eastern European team. Melamed finished with 10 points.

In the return leg Melamed scored 10 points again and Zippora Halperin led Hapoel with 15, but Bucharest dominated 83-51 to end Hapoel's European campaign for the 1969-70 season.