Hapoel Afula and Elizur Netanya met this evening (Sunday) for a hot game that ended with Afula returning to the Premier League. The Norths beat the Diamonds 68:78 and completed a 2:3 victory in the National League semifinal series.
The game started aggressively, with the first points belonging to Ethan Borg. In the following minutes, Afula was not accurate, but Netanya did not know how to take advantage of it. Koren Journo got into things and sniped two three-pointers, Jimmy Hall got into the rhythm as well and a nice basket by Borg at the buzzer made it 18:21 for the host after one quarter of basketball. The start of the second quarter was more accurate from the point of view of both teams, with Hall and Burg each continuing to lead their team. Lucas Goldenberg played excellently and his three-pointer excited the home crowd. Alon Drucker added another one at the buzzer and made it 42:46 for Afula at halftime.
The third quarter opened with a 3-pointer by Borg, who continued to hit and on the other side Goldenberg and Hall answered with baskets of their own. Goldenberg continued to be hot and Afula made a small escape that was sealed with a 3-pointer by Giorno, before Burg was again the man who scored the last basket in the quarter and the scoreboard showed 52:60 to Hapoel Afula after 30 minutes of basketball.
Three and a half minutes into the last quarter, when the score was 60-67 for Afola, Jimmy Hall fouled out for the fifth time, and two minutes later Roi Netzia also fouled out. From that moment it seems that the ones who received a shot of encouragement were the Netanyas who started to attack, and managed to narrow the gap to only four. Turalian Fitchpatrick woke up just in time to hit a 3-pointer that was also his first field goal of the game. A minute to the end two consecutive fouls on Afula sealed the game and sent the northerners to celebrate.
Coach Roy Perl Speaking after the victory: “I want to say that I dedicate this evening to my father, my mother, my wife and the girls, I’m not breathing well. I can’t really hear, for me today I fulfilled a childhood dream. I’m from Hapoel Afula from the age of six, I’m really very excited.”
Koren Journo, who registered a second qualification in a row, added: “Exciting, really exciting. All the atmosphere that was here, look what an atmosphere, it’s impossible not to get excited and enjoy the moment. I’m happy with this team, with all the way we’ve gone. I think we deserved it, of course there is no deserving in sports, but if there is then it is this team and the path we have taken from day one until now.”
“First of all, kudos to Netanya, a super talented and young team, with promising players who I’m sure will go far”, praised Giorno to the opponent. “There is no doubt that they are a good team, they made it very difficult for us from the first game. We worked all year for this home advantage and I think it was possible to see how much it was felt in the series, both for here and for them. I think all the hard work in the end was drained into this game, that we proved that it was worth all the work of being first and securing home until the end. Where will I be next season? The question of the questions. You can’t tell at the moment, I signed for one year, I would love to progress and be here next year. The summer is still long and we’ll see.”
Lucas Gundelberg who excelled in the game added: “Very happy and excited, the first time I’m playing outside of Argentina after many seasons there and it’s a dream come true. I am very excited. I want to say hello to my friends and family from Argentina. I hope we will lift the trophy, of course we achieved the goal, but we are competitive and want to win the second league.”