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Bernhardt Game-Winner over SAR Secures Heschel Playoff Spot

On Wednesday night, SAR traveled to Manhattan to take on Heschel in a crucial matchup in both teams’ playoff pushes. Heschel slowly built a 10-point lead, but SAR came roaring back in the final period. A Hunter Bernhardt bucket with a few seconds to go was the decider, and with the 38-36 win, the Heat locked up a playoff spot.

Hunter Bernhardt only had 4 points on the night, but his last-second shot put Heschel over the top and into the playoffs.

The Heat opened the game with an all-12th grade lineup in celebration of senior night. The packed crowd consisted of Heschel students, faculty, and parents, along with plenty of traveling SAR fans. The energy was palpable prior to tip-off, as everyone in the gym understood the significance of this game’s result.

The Heat started the game demonstrating their signature defense, stifling the SAR attack and allowing just six points in the first quarter. Heschel tallied 10 of their own points, thanks to seniors Jesse Storch and Imri Rom. The second period continued to be a slow-paced, low-scoring struggle. Heschel extended the lead to six before halftime, with both teams needing to make serious offensive adjustments going into the second half. A scoreline of 18-12 gave the Heat an advantage, but SAR was looking to make a statement out of the intermission.

On the back of junior Nati Eshaghoff, Heschel jumped out of the break with three straight baskets, including a three and a step-back jumper. Behind an electric environment, the Heat won the third quarter 10-2, and led 28-18 going into the final frame. The Sting continued to have no answers as to how to attack Heschel in the halfcourt. 

Still hungry for the win, SAR began an intense comeback. Using their full-court press to force Heschel into committing turnovers and then taking advantage on the break, SAR flipped the tenor of the contest. The Sting chipped the lead all the way down to 3, but a massive corner trey by shooting specialist Tal Visser rebuilt Heschel’s lead to 6. A free throw brought the game to within 5 with just 1:27 left on the clock.

All the Heat had to do was hold on to the ball and wait for the Sting to foul them intentionally. Nonetheless, turnovers on back-to-back possessions allowed SAR to tie the ball game with 18 seconds left. With these buckets, SAR’s fourth quarter point total rose to 18, the same output as they had in the first three periods combined. Deciding not to use a timeout, the game was in the hands of Heschel senior Hunter Bernhardt, who drove to the right of the hoop and sank a fadeaway floater to take the lead with 3 seconds to go. Unable to hit a game-winning shot, SAR fell to 6-6 while the Heat rose to 8-4.

With the victory, Heschel clinched their first playoff appearance in five years, when they won the Yeshiva League Championship. This loss damaged SAR playoff hopes, but the boys from Riverdale still control their own destiny. At the time of writing, the Sting will be in if they win their last two games (@ TABC, @ Frisch). If they lose out, they will only get in if JEC loses out. If they win one game, they will be in if either JEC or Ohr Yisroel lose a game.

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