There’s a lot of traffic on the road to redemption right now as both the Shalhevet Firehawks and the SAR Sting have bad memories that they’re very eager to erase. For the past two years, Shalhevet has made it to the championship only to fall short, with last year’s loss coming with only a few seconds left. There’s nothing the Firehawks would want more than to finally get over the hump and bring home the Tier I championship.
For the Sting, they still have fresh memories of a painful Sunday afternoon loss to the eventual champions Frisch Cougars last year that denied them a trip to the Tier I championship, which, coincidentally, would have been against the Shalhevet Firehawks. SAR was literally inches away from upsetting Frisch as two last-second threes that would have won the game barely missed.
The faces of last year’s Firehawks team have left, and the spotlight falls onto youngster Zach Muller, the dynamic, flashy scorer and playmaker. Muller played in Sarachek a year ago, but was the third best player on his team behind stars Eitan Halpert and Edan Sokol. Now, Muller, along with captain and energizer Ben Mashiach, must shoulder the responsibility and lead his team back to the Tier I championship. Muller seems unfazed by the pressure, calmly and efficiently dominating on the court.
Muller must realize, however, that he might not even be the best player on the court on Sunday afternoon. Reminding many of Steve Nash due to his lights out shooting, great court vision, and unbelievable intensity and focus, Sting superstar Judah Oppenheimer has established himself as one of best Sarachek players of recent memory. Oppenheimer is a threat to shoot from anywhere on the court, and he even knocked down a buzzer-beating three just a few steps inside of half court on Friday afternoon.
Even greater than his actual athletic ability, however, is his leadership and demeanor. Trailing by two to a DRS team that was on the verge of an amazing comeback, the frustrated Sting team had the ball with 45 seconds left and a chance to tie it. Unfortunately, though, one of the Sting players shuffled his feet before putting the ball down (the “Yeshiva League Travel” as many call it), and it was a costly turnover at the worst of times. With minutes of frustration mounting, one would have expected major disappointment and annoyance from the Sting players. However, immediately after the turnover, Oppenheimer ran right over to the player who traveled, gave him a pat on the back, told him not to worry about, and got back on defense without a hint of anger or worry in him, despite the pickle that his team was in. This remarkable display of leadership and poise is something that truly separates Judah Oppenheimer from the rest of the stars of the tournament.
Who will get redemption? Will it be Muller and the Firehawks? Or Oppenheimer and the Sting?
Buckle your seatbelts, folks. This is going to be a wild one.
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