After watching a thrilling Tier-I semifinal game between the 1st-seeded Frisch Cougars (Paramus, NJ) and the 4th-seeded SAR Sting (Riverdale, NY), the fans in the Max Stern Athletic Center took a few moments to breathe normally again as the electrifying atmosphere began to slowly revert to normal. However, that period of serenity was rather short-lived as the 2nd-seeded Heschel Heat (New York, NY) and 3rd-seeded Shalhevet Firehawks (Los Angeles, CA) revived that intensity as they tipped off just minutes later in another Tier-I semi-final game.
Because both teams were ranked in the top four, they each enjoyed a nice bye on Thursday as they watched their fellow high schoolers play from the sideline. The extra rest seemed to play in their favor as they each picked up the “W” on Friday afternoon. For the Firehawks, it was sophomore guard Zack Muller who led them to a victory over the Katz YHS Storm (Boca Raton, FL) with a game-high 22 points. The Heat survived an upset scare against the 10-seeded RASG Warriors (Miami Beach, FL) as Harlan Reiss hit a big 3-pointer in overtime to give them Heschel narrow victory.
Playing in front of a packed gym, both Heschel and Shalhevet struggled to score in the early going. Shalhevet star Eitan Halpert put the first points on the scoreboard with a three, and he finished the first quarter with an impressive eight points. Despite some good looks both inside and out, Heschel couldn’t draw blood until 2:45 left in the quarter, on a three pointer by Jeremy Spiera. That shot sparked a run as the Heat battled back to tie the game at seven apiece. With both the shot clock and the game clock running down, Halpert hit a three to give his team a 13-7 lead after one.
Heschel’s early-quarter offensive troubles continued as they couldn’t score again until 2:30 left in the half. Meanwhile, Shalhevet, led by the hustle of Isaac Goor and Samuel Ellenberg, dominated the offensive glass for the entire game with particular emphasis on the 2nd quarter. The Firehawks won the rebounding battle by a wide margin, 31 to 16.
Spiera scored all five of his team’s points in the 2nd quarter as the Heat went into halftime trailing 19-12. Heat coach Evan Pickman told the MacsLive staff that he was happy with the defensive play of his team during the 1st half, but they needed to find a way to put the ball in the hoop.
Despite the large age difference between Muller and Halpert, they seemed to have an incredible on-court connection that led to a number of easy baskets for the Firehawks, including a number of beautiful back-door cuts. They led their team to a 21-12 lead with under six minutes to go in the 3rd, but a Harlan Reiss three pointer and a Jonathan Mack three-point play gave the Heat some much-needed momentum as they cut the lead to 21-18.
However, following a Shalhevet timeout, the Firehawks went on a 10-3 run highlighted by two triples from big man Edan Sokol. After the game, Sokol talked about how his team was “battle-tested” after playing against some top tier competition back in California. His dynamic 3rd-quarter performance was evidence of that big moment experience.
Shalhevet took a 32-25 lead going into the final quarter, and their hopes of returning to the Tier-I championship were only eight minutes away. However, Heschel had no intention whatsoever of letting them do so. Michael Gatan connected on a three to reawaken the Heat fans, and when Mack took a charge on a Halpert drive, they erupted into a wild frenzy. The good news for Heschel continued as Harlan Reiss was fouled on a three and calmly sank all three free throws, and Ilan Orgel hit a gigantic three with the shot clock running down to cut the Shalhevet lead to one.
The Firehawks turned to their experienced leaders in Sokol and Halpert to answer the bell and extend their lead. They did exactly that by each hitting two big free throws to give Shalhevet a five-point lead. With just 39.2 seconds left, the Firehawks put the nail in the coffin with a Halpert three point play coming off a perfect backdoor pass from Goor. Halpert received well-deserved “MVP” chants at the free throw line, leading his team to the 44-38 victory.
Heschel will get a chance to take home the third place crown when they face off tomorrow against an SAR team that narrowly missed upsetting Frisch. That should definitely be an exciting game to watch as well.
Shalhevet will return to the championship game in what should be an epic showdown vs the Cougars. For those of you planning on coming to the game, we encourage you to get there early as it is likely that the gym will reach its full capacity. If you aren’t coming to the game, be sure to follow all of the action here on MacsLive.
Exactly one year ago, the Shalhevet Firehawks lost the Tier-I championship game to an elite DRS Wildcats team. As the clock ticked down and defeat was inevitable, Edan Sokol turned to Eitan Halpert and told him that they would be back next year. Congratulations, Edan. You were right.
The Tier-I final will be at 2 PM on Monday in the Max Stern Athletic Center. Be sure to follow all of the Championship Monday action on MacsLive the official home of Yeshiva Sports, and exclusive broadcaster of the Red Sarachek tournament.
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- Kohelet Crowned Tier IV Champs
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- Harkham Wins, But Both Teams Celebrate After Historic Night In Sarachek
- The 16 Seeded Cinderella Story Continues
- All Cooper All Day, As The Macs Head To The Tier-II Championship.
- A Renewed Battle Between Frisch And Shalhevet For Tier-I Glory