The Ramaz Rams might have claimed hierarchy of the yeshiva league, but the season culmination and crown of north american jewish high school basketball was handed out this past weekend at the annual Red Sarachek Memorial Tournament hosted at Yeshiva University. The Yeshiva League was well represented sporting ten of the twenty-two teams in the tournament, displaying their talents that have awed the metropolitan area, but this time on a greater stage.
Some notable performances from the yeshiva league representatives were highlighted by the MTA Lions winning the Tier III championship, making it their third consecutive tournament being crowned a victor. This performance was most impressive being how the Lions played five games in five days and it all came down to several clutch shots from guards Abie Schwartz and Gavriel Rudman, as well as lockdown defense from Ezra Halpert. This victory came against another yeshiva league team, the HAFTR Hawks, who were powered by sophomore Kevin Levy and senior star Haimy Salem.
The yeshiva league also claimed the Tier II championship, by none other than the Ramaz Rams. Only a week earlier, the Rams were hosting their hardware as league champions and now they had the ability to add to their trophy collection with a victory against a usual Tier II victim the Ida Crown Aces. Nearly identical to their Myhsal championship win, the Rams were led by the scoring willpower of seniors Julius Rubinstein and Cy Aminzadeh. Two championships in as many weeks, that's definitely the way to end a high school basketball career.
As important as the Tier II and III championships are, nothing compares to the Tier I champions. In the “final four” of this tier, three of the four teams were hometown teams: TABC Storm, SAR Sting and the DRS Wildcats. While the final team was none other than future NBA draft prospect, Ryan Turell, alma mater the Valley Torah Wolfpack. In the first semi-final game, the TABC Storm got off to a hot start against the Valley Torah Wolfpack, holding a double digit lead in the concluding minutes of the first half. The Wolfpack went on a silent, but crucial run to close out the half and narrowed the TABC lead to a minimal margin. In the second half, the story was all about the Wolfpack. Defensively, they only surrendered ten second half points to the Storm, while on the offensive end underclassmen Noam Mayouhas and Johnny Dan were unstoppable. This victory placed them in the final round against the victor of yeshiva league rivals, SAR Sting and DRS Wildcats.
Neither team desired to end their season on a loss, the SAR Sting were just coming off a championship game loss a week earlier, while the DRS Wildcats were still mourning a quarter-final exit on their homecourt. The first three quarters was a story of traded baskets and runs with no team being able to maintain a stable lead. This came to a halt, when the Sting attempted to pull away with a twelve point lead with five minutes remaining in the game. The Wildcats were not ready to finish their season yet as they went on a 16-4 run to fight their way back and secure a spot in the last dance against the Valley Torah Wolfpack.
The Wildcats entered the game without junior phenom Isaac Solomon who was injured in their semi-final victory, but the WIldcats were not willing to let this disadvantage ruin their chance of winning their first Tier I championship since the glory days of Gabe Leifer. Unfortunately for DRS, the Wolfpack jumped out to a quick lead sparked by clutch shooting from Noam Mayouhas and David Paz. This lead seemed inevitable until a late game 15-0 run by the WIldcats led by top scorer in the tournament Ari Ivry, who eventually hit a layup to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game. The Wolfpack answered with a basket of their own, but the following sequence not only sealed the deal, but left all fans in awe. After a missed opportunity by DRS, the Wolfpack had possession of the ball with a chance to add on to their three point lead, when Ari Ivry picked off a pass. He appeared to be off and running for an easy fastbreak finish, when out of nowhere Johnny Dan, the Wolfpack’s superstar junior, came flying in for a swat off the backboard that nearly replaced Lebron James’ iconic block on Andre Iguadala in the 2016 NBA Finals. This block was crucial for the Wolfpack as it led to a seven point swing, ultimately giving them their first Sarachek championship in school history. Dan was awarded tournament MVP as his performance over the five day tournament, highlighted by his block which has gone viral on social media, left fans awaiting his return next year as a senior hoping to repeat as champions.
The Red Sarachek Tournament was a captivating way to end the basketball season, with an appreciation for coaches and the graduating seniors as well as having all eyes on next year's potential for greatness.
Ikey Gutlove is the Jewish Link sports intern. Please contact email@example.com if you have interest in contributing to this column by providing stories and updates from any high school athletic teams.