April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chicago Sky Captures CMEK Women’s League Championship

In a game played in front of a packed crowd at BPY, the vaunted and feared reigning champions, Phoenix Mercury, stormed out to open the game on an 11-0 run behind superstar phenom, Kristen Kush (CMEK coach). All signs pointed to a fourth title for team captain Sharon Bartel and company.

After a timeout, Chicago regrouped, traded baskets and fought to close the first half trailing 23-13. During the halftime break Chicago reviewed their strategy. Said Yael Stone, Chicago’s most versatile player, “We have been down before and we just needed our team pep talk. Shoshana Cohen (Shoco), team captain, went over the defense again and said no more turnovers, (make) smart passes, wait for the open man, don’t force anything.”

The pep talk paid off, and with Kush resting to start the second half, Chicago ran off 13 straight points to take the lead that they would not relinquish. Aliza Hiller, Yavneh/Maayanot alum, who currently works at Yavneh, tallied 20 points en route to earning playoff MVP honors. “Throughout this whole season our team was supportive of each other. We worked hard together, we laughed together, we battled together and never doubted that our team can pull through at any moment,” Hiller stated.

The teams went back and forth midway through the second half and then Chicago closed it out behind their brilliant mastermind leader Shoco, who currently coaches at SAR in Manhattan.

Said Shoco, “Our offensive strategy was to try and clear Kush out of the middle, to allow for some open higher percentage shots. If they played us in a zone, Elana Tamas (Frisch alum) and I would run a high/low post to draw her to one of us, and open up the other, or dish to our shooters. If they were on a man, we needed to give the ball to whoever Kush was guarding, to make her have to step up and commit to them, and then we tried to work it inside off a pick and roll.”

Elana Tamas, the league’s defensive player of the season, added, “My favorite part of being in the league is that it reminds me of something that I had in my childhood that I have the opportunity to recapture as a grown woman. The ability to bond with a team through an athletic experience is one of the most positive memories that I have ever had and never expected to be able to replicate.”

Shoco added that “the CMEK Women’s League gives me the unique opportunity to play competitive basketball—something that women our age do not usually get the chance to do. The fact that everyone comes in ready to play, with this amazing balance of a competitive and cooperative spirit—no selfishness, just playing ball. That is such a thing I cherish at this point in my life, and CMEK provides that outlet for all of us. Elana Tamas stepped up and played tenacious D. She wasn’t going to stop everything, but she stayed with Kush the entire time, and made her work hard for everything. Yael Stone took some amazing drives—focusing on attacking the basket, no matter who was in her way. She made some incredible moves and hit some incredibly clutch free throws down the stretch. Jordana Pollack was a controlled point guard, bringing the ball up with so much composure, never cracking for a second under the defensive pressure. She also made some incredible steals down the stretch which we were able to convert to maintain the lead in transition. Samantha Locke is such a solid all around player. She challenges the team to think what is best for the team at each moment, making sure we put our best five forward when it counts. She is the most selfless player, but it’s that combined with her toughness—both offensive and defensive—that makes her an asset to any team. Aliza Hiller was our well deserved MVP, not just of the championship game, but of the entire season. She has a beautiful three point shot, is constantly moving and hustling, chasing after every rebound and every loose ball, cutting to the basket and making her presence known. Defensively Aliza perfectly executed her role and completely shut down star point guard, former MVP, Sharon Bartel, in this game.”

The CMEK Women’s League season six is closed out. Season seven begins March 20. The CMEK Men’s League starts this February. Visit www.CMEK.com or contact [email protected] for more details.

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