At first glance, the Shalhevet Firehawks might not have such an intimidating roster. Once the game starts, though, boy, are they fierce. The Firehawks used absolutely suffocating defense to earn a 48-38 victory over the #5 seeded SAR Sting.
Junior guard Zack Muller, who led the Firehawks in scoring with 19 points, drained two free throws with just under a minute left, pushing the lead to 10 and sealing the win.
SAR Junior point guard Judah Oppenheimer did his best to keep the Sting close, hitting an impressive three-pointer while double teamed with just under two minutes cutting the lead to six, but that was as close as SAR would get. On the ensuing SAR possession Shalhevet Senior Benny Zaghi drew an offensive foul, which led to a Muller layup to give the Firehawks a nine-point lead.
From the opening tip Shalhevet played defense like a man possessed, drawing four offensive fouls in the first half alone. The Sting were clearly rattled, as they shot a dismal 37% from the field on the game.
The first half was a close one, as SAR was able to match Shalhevet’s defense for the first 14 minutes. With two minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter and the Firehawks holding onto a 15-13 lead, Hawks guard Asher Dauer nailed a three to extend their lead. After a defensive stop and with the clock running down, Dauer put up another three that hit the front of the rim and rolled in as time expired, capping an 8-2 run to send the Firehawks into the half up 24-13.
The second half opened with Hawks Freshman guard Ze’ev Remer taking his 2nd charge of the game. On the next Hawks possession Dauer hit a cutting Muller who nailed a pretty fadeaway jumper with a hand in his face.
This opened up a run of offense as the teams went back and forth trading baskets with each other. With 3:38 remaining in the 3rd quarter, SAR forward Noah Gurin dazzled the crowd with a beautiful crossover, evaded a defender with a eurostep, drew contact, and finished the play at the cup for the and-1. Gurin hit the free throw to complete the spectacular three-point play.
The Firehawks were able to answer every run made by SAR, as they maintained their double-digit lead throughout the quarter. Following a Sammy Sokol layup for SAR, the Firehawks responded by hitting a buzzer-beater for the second straight quarter as Reemer, who finished with six points, took the inbound and went coast-to-coast to hit a layup at the buzzer.
Heading into the final frame down 38-24, SAR ramped up the defense, taking a charge of their own, followed by a Sokol layup. On the next possession Oppenheimer stole the ball near half-court and finished the fast-break layup to cut the deficit to nine.
The Sting momentum was stifled when big man Sammy Sokol fouled out on a questionable call. Sokol, who exited the game with eight points and three boards, appeared to block a Shalhevet layup off the backboard, but was whistled for a body foul, ending his game.
Three other players fouled out of the game as well: SAR forward Jake Schwalbe, and Shalhevet guards Ze’ev Remer and Asher Dauer.
Benny Zaghi finished with eight points, as Ben Mashiach, Jeremy Asheghian, and Joseph Zaghi chipped in three points apiece for the Firehawks.
Judah Oppenheimer led SAR in scoring with 14 points, while Noah Gurin put up 12 points for the Sting. Aaron Blustein and Adam Weiss contributed three and one points, respectively.
SAR is eliminated from Tier I championship contention in the semi-final game for the 2nd consecutive year. The Sting will face Magen David in the Tier I 3rd place game Monday morning. The #3 seeded Warriors fell earlier in the day to #2 seed Valley Torah.
Shalhevet will advance to their third straight championship appearance despite the graduation of last year’s tournament MVP Eitan Halpert. The Firehawks will be looking for redemption, as they fell to Frisch in last year’s final game 49-47.
Shalhevet will battle fellow Los Angeles school Valley Torah in Monday’s marquee matchup. The Valley Torah Wolfpack tote an intimidating lineup featuring three players above 6 foot 6, led by Senior Ryan Turell.
However, with the defense Shalhevet has been playing, they can beat anyone, as they were victorious over Valley Torah earlier this year overcoming a 16-point deficit to grind out the victory.
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