Cinderella slays the dragon but can Kiryat Ata finish the job against Hapoel Tel Aviv?

For those who have watched Kiryat Ata all season long it should come as no surprise to their playoff success thus far. After knocking off third place Maccabi Ramat Gan, Sharon Avrahami’s troops entered the Drive In Arena for a date with Hapoel Tel Aviv in a best-of-3 semifinal series with no fear whatsoever on their faces. It was clear that Kiryat Ata, a team made up of Israelis, primarily younger studs along with some veteran imports were not going to be intimidated by the red fans that filled the facility.

Amin Stevens – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Sure Hapoel went on a 9-0 run to begin the game and it looked as if the contest was done before it had begun, but no way, no how that was going to be the case said this Kiryat Ata team as they rattled off a 15-2 run of their own to take the lead and hold that advantage for most of the clash. Avrahami’s men made sure to keep control of the game at the pace that they wanted to play and as the bench boss himself said in the postgame press conference, force the hosts into places that they were very uncomfortable with.

Avrahami’s plan worked to a “T”.

Hapoel looked out of sorts throughout the 40 minutes save for a few minutes at the end of the third quarter and parts of the fourth when Jaylen Hoard took control of the paint and used his “Superman” abilities to fly high and break the game open, or at least so they thought.

Jaylen Hoard – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

With Hapoel now cruising and up 79-72 it looked as if it was game, set, match.

But no.

Kiryat Ata was going to have no part of that.

Guy Palatin and Raz Adam – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

The former Red Raz Adam dropped a a pair of And-1’s, James Batemon hit his free throws and that was that.

There was a stunned silence from the crowd. It was deafening.

The fans did not know what had happened. The players did not know what had happened.

No one seemed to know what had occurred except for Sharon Avrahami and his squad.

They had slayed the dragon in its own lair.

82-79 for Kiryat Ata and that was that.

Stefanos Dedas – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Dedas sat at the dais and didn’t know how to explain the 10-0 run to end the game. He was almost speechless which for him, well, if you know the coach is something very, very unique.

“The fans were amazing, but they can’t score and they can’t defend,” Dedas commented after the game.

Now Hapoel Tel Aviv will need to pull its boots up and head north to find a way to break down what seems to be impenetrable while Kiryat Ata will need to dig down deep to find a way to win two in a row and punch their ticket to the finals because a game 3 back at the Drive In is the absolute last thing that Avrahami would want to have to experience.

Sharon Avrahami – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

There’s no question that Saturday night up north will be hot, hopefully there won’t be any extracurricular activities from Hezbollah to heat up the situation any more than it already is, but this is Kiryat Ata’s chance to shine and be that “Cinderella” that so many want to see.

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