Despite the Corona outbreaks leading to several quarantine periods and cancellation of matchups, Yeshiva League varsity basketball has had a very productive and entertaining first half of the season. There is still a great amount of action to come, but here is an update on what has taken place to date in the eastern conference, followed by what can be expected as the playoffs approach.
As the first half of the season has progressed the DRS Wildcats have continued to not only impress, but improve, which is why they are at the top of the pack in the eastern conference. After taking an opening night loss at the hands of a promising Waterbury Wolfpack team, the Wildcats started to mold together as a team in order to drive for success. Some of their most notable victories have been in outer conference play where they traveled all the way to Parmaus, NJ to defeat the Frisch Cougars as well as locking down the SAR Sting with a stellar full court press. In addition to their remarkable defense, a key aspect of the Wildcats success has been their multitude of players capable of going on a scoring rampage at any given point during the game. A roadblock they encountered was a road loss against conference rival Flatbush Falcons, but with another matchup, this time in the Greenhouse, the Wildcats will look to have the momentum to tie the season series.
The middle tier of the eastern conference is very complex due to there being five teams with at most a one and half game difference in records. Three of these teams, the Flatbush Falcons, HAFTR Hawks and Magen David Warriors, are usual threats nearly every season, and this year is much of the same. The Falcons started the season on a four game winning streak, but since then there has been some concern. They have been on the losing side of three of their past five games, two of which were outer conference matchups against high seeds. With four of their five remaining games against teams with winning records, the Falcons will need to demonstrate their capability to beat top tier teams on a consistent basis, otherwise when playoff time arrives there will be some concern.
The HAFTR Hawks and Magen David Warriors are half a game apart in the standings and have gotten off to a similar start. With the exception of HAFTR’s loss to Magen Abraham, both teams have won the games that were expected of them, but have failed to pull off any upsets. With two chances to slow down division rival Flatbush Falcons and DRS Wildcats, the Magen David Warriors have came up short handed on both occasions, even in an overtime loss by one point, but with another matchup against the Falcons as well as a visit to the Frisch Cougars, the Warriors hope to start off the second half of the season on a high note. The HAFTR Hawks don't have an easy remaining schedule with all four remaining matchups against high quality teams. The spotlight of their regular season will be when they play the Flatbush Falcons at the Barclays Center, every yeshiva league basketball player's dream. Although it may be unlikely their action will be featured on the House of Highlights Instagram page, be sure to check this section of the Jewish Link for an in depth analysis.
In addition to the three previously mentioned usual playoff contenders, two dark horse teams remain in the middle of the pack- the Waterbury Wolfpack and the YDE Thunder. Not only do these two teams have identical records at six wins and five losses apiece, but they've also split the season series, highlighted by a triple overtime victory by YDE on opening night back in November. The YDE Thunder have a generational talent in Isaac Tawil, who has been mentioned in this column on countless occasions throughout the season. Dubbed as the yeshiva league Kevin Durant, Tawil has shown his ability to score at all three levels on an almost nightly basis, highlighted by his fifty six point performance against the Rambam Ravens in a victory earlier this season. When Tawil heats up there is no stopping him, will he be able to lead the Thunder on a deep playoff run?
Coming in at the lower tier in the conference are the Magen Abraham Kings, North Shore Stars, Hanc Hurricanes and Rambam Ravens. Some of these teams have had more success than others, but they all share a common issue of inconsistency. A bright spot from the teams in this tier has been the Magen Abraham Kings who have shown some promising offensive production from Aaron Levy and tenth grader Albert Swaid. Will Swaid be the future of the Kings and bring them to future success? Each of these teams have several games left and it is not too late to count them out yet!