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Israeli Team Defeats Kushner in Rubinstein/Emunah B-ball Tourney Opener

The 2015 Rubinstein/Emunah JV Tournament has an unusual international flavor this year as tournament organizers Ronnie Faber and Coach Avi Borenstein arranged for a team from the Holy Land to join the fray. Otzma Modiin, a club team from the city of Modiin in central Israel, traveled to New Jersey to compete against the traditional Yeshiva League JV teams. The Modiin team is comprised of mostly ninth graders from around Modiin and includes Moshe Scharlat, a former Yavneh Academy student and player, who made Aliyah in 2014. The team is graciously being hosted in Teaneck at the famed basketball player factory known widely as the “Hod Abode.”

Otzma arrived early at the JEC gym in Elizabeth, New Jersey for its 8:30 pm game against Kushner on December 15. When the Kushner players joined them, they went right over to the Otzma crew, introduced themselves and sat side by side with their Israeli counterparts to watch JEC defeat Heschel in the tournament opener. It was the start of a night of great camaraderie, and some pretty competitive basketball.

After the singing of the national anthem and Hatikva, the two teams stood at midcourt facing each other for an exchange of gifts, as is common in the European leagues. Then the teams dug in for the business at hand.

The two squads came out a bit jittery, with turnovers sprinkled on both sides of the court throughout the early minutes. Otzma guard Carmel “Berdi” Berdichevsky got hot first, scoring 7 of Otzma’s nine points in the quarter. Otzma’s Scharlat added 2 on a steal and a layup, and the boys from Modiin took the quarter 9-7.

All of Kushner’s points in the first quarter came from big man Gabe Plotzer, who continued to succeed in the second period. He added two buckets and got scoring help from Jonah Braverman, David Burack and Jordan Dyckman. Coupled with strong ball handling by David Moradi, the Cobras grabbed the lead at halftime 18-15.

Faced with tough Kushner opposition and a roster depleted by jet lag and weather-change, Otzma coach Michael Sandler, a former Israeli professional and national team player, made some adjustments at halftime. Otzma came out in the third quarter with intense defensive pressure led by big man Ido Lupo and swingman Harel Sitton; this held Plotzker in check. Berdi hit two three-balls, Scharlat hit one trey and Lupo added a bucket. Modiin held the Cobras to 4 points in the quarter, and retook the lead 26-22 going into the final quarter.

The teams seesawed back and forth in the last stanza as the game hung in the balance. Berdi added his fourth trey of the game and Erel Wachtenheim added a key bucket, as did Lupo. As Otzma fought off a run of scoring from Plotzker, Moradi, Max Longman and Michael Poedeem, Kusher was forced to start fouling. In response, Scharlat took control of the ball and sank 7 of 8 from the line, to seal the deal and a 42-36 win for the boys from Israel.

The Otzma tally was Berdi (20), Scharlat (12), Lupo (6), Wachtenheim (2), Ido Apeloig (2).

For the Cobras Plotzker finished with 14 and Moradi 5.

Otzma has a tournament game against TABC in the Storm Center on Thursday December 17 before Sunday’s tournament finale at SAR.

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