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JEC Varsity Basketball Beats Kushner and Hillel to Coast Into 2019 Playoffs

JEC varsity had not made the playoffs for the prior two seasons andlost four games in a row in October-November. Things were looking bleak, with the next two games against powerhouse cross-conference teams Flatbush and Rambam. But, to the shock of the yeshiva basketball world, the Thunder beat both Flatbush and Rambam, to skate to a 2-4 recon, entering the Chanukah season.

Over the next two months, JEC worked its way back into the playoff hunt in the West, evening its record at 6-6, with wins over Heschel, MTA and Kushner. Entering the post-yeshiva Week break, the Thunder needed to win at least one of two games against either Kushner or Hillel for a trip to the playoffs.

On Saturday night, February 2, JEC journeyed to Kushner to play the Cobras on their Senior Night. Kushner as well needed a win to get into the playoffs. This nail-biter of a game had vast playoff implications for five teams in the tight West division.

With about 250 fans in the Kushner gyms, the teams staged a back and forth contest worthy of a playoff game. JEC was able to generate a 12-10 lead at the end of the first period, growing the lead to as much as a 23-14 bulge, but Kushner had the size advantage, and held JEC to a six point lead at the half.

In the third period, JEC’s two centers, captain Jake Goldberg and Joe Matthew both were in foul trouble and had to ride the pines for much of the second half. Kushner took advantage of the situation, and to the delight of the screaming Cobra fans, erased the JEC lead by the end of the third, led 42-41. But, the Cobras did not count on the depth of the JEC bench. Senior Shalom Ringer, normally a shooting guard, replaced the two JEC bigs, and nailed a huge trey from the right corner with three seconds to play in the period, to close the gap.

In the final period, JEC’s shooting guard, Aharon Heller, was fouled, nailed both, and put JEC back on top, 43-42. Both teams went cold, and it was not until the 5:42 mark that JEC had a 44-42 lead.

On the next possession, Moshe Heller stole the ball, and fed the streaking Jacob Winters for a layup, and the lead was now 46-42. The Cobras then retrieved two missed JEC shots, and courted mid-range jumpers, tying the game at 46-all with 3:42 to play. In came the Thunder, with Ringer hitting another corner 3 and a steal by Moshe Heller, giving JEC the lead again, 51-46.

Plotsker kept Kushner in the game, narrowing the lead, but that was all they were able to manage, as JEC dominated to earn them the win 59-52 and a playoff spot.

Leading the scoring for JEC was Moshe Heller with 20 points, five steals and 11 rebounds for a double double and another all-star caliber game. Joining Moshe were Aharon Heller with 12 pts, Yair Kimmel with nine pts, Winters with seven pts and Ringer with the two huge 3s and six pts.

With the playoffs clinched, the Thunder faced Hillel Heat on Senior Night on the JEC campus for positioning. JEC took a 22-11 lead at the end of the first period, with Kimmel bombing three 3s in the first period and Moshe Heller, Jacob Winters and first time starter, Ariel Braun, joining in as well. JEC scored another 22 points—including an exciting 3 from junior Noah Pascher—to lead Hillel 44-18 at the half, eventually closing out the game with a 69-48 final score.

Moshe Heller had another 20 points in this game. Kimmel tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds. Aharon Heller and Glick scored eight each, and the JEC Staten Island kids, Goodman and junior Aharon Cohen each scored. Joe Ades led Hillel with 17 points.

The win earned the Thunder a remarkable turnaround 8-6 yeshiva league record, and not only a playoff spot, but the #5 seed against #4 SAR in the first round of the playoffs, and at this writing JEC is ranked #18 nationally in the Jewish Hoops America polling.

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