After none of the Eastern conference teams advanced past the quarter-finals round last season, the eastern conference is almost in “redeem mode” as they try to not only be successful in the regular season, but to extend it into playoff success.
As correctly predicted in the season preview article, the North Shore Lions, formerly known as the Stars, have been unstoppable. The stars from their junior varsity championship team last season have transitioned well on the varsity level providing depth to an already formidable lineup. The impact of their deep team was on full display last week as the North Shore Lions defeated the MTA Lions, despite missing four of their starters. Prior to defeating MTA, North Shore had already accumulated nine victories and had yet to pick up a loss. North Shore still has four games remaining in the regular season against top tier teams in the Yeshiva League. Will they prevail and attempt to reach their first championship game in nine years?
The DRS Wildcats started the season on a high note by winning the Magen David Preseason Invitational Tournament and are currently in a position to compete for the Yeshiva League championship as well. The Wildcats are an upperclassmen-heavy team being led by seniors Stephen Olshin, Ari Saffra and Isaac Solomon. The regular season started out exceptionally well for the Wildcats with them winning their first five games, but more recently they’ve shown struggles in their outer conference matchups. After a 40 point loss on the road against the SAR Sting, the Wildcats regained some momentum picking up two consecutive victories.
Unfortunately the two game streak was cut short by two overtime losses in three nights, both on their home court. Their final game of the season will prove to be their most important to date, when they host the top seeded North Shore Lions. If the Wildcats can prevail and take down the Lions, it could set the stage for future playoff success.
The last time an Eastern Conference team won a varsity Yeshiva League championship was in the 2017-18 season by the Magen David Warriors. This year the Warriors have proven they are ready to compete again. The Warriors have been led by the most dominant center in the Yeshiva League, Asher Melamed, who is a lockdown defender in the paint for any opposing offense, while also averaging just over 17 points per game. With just a few games remaining, the Warriors will face countless challenges as they will play the top seeded teams in each conference, the North Shore Lions and SAR Sting, as well as a top tier TABC Storm team.
A team that has stayed beneath the radar, but could present a challenge to opponents once the playoffs arrive are the Flatbush Falcons. Despite only being two games above .500 the victories the Falcons have secured were no easy task. Two of their highlight victories have been a 15-point advantage over the Frisch Cougars and creeping by the Magen David Warriors by three points, to split the season series. The Falcons have been led by the fantastic underclassman play of Beni Kada and Ronnie Chaaya. Even if the Falcons don’t make the deepest run in the playoffs, there is a great amount of young talent for the Falcons to build on for next season with the arrival of Coach Ryan Coleman from the West Coast.
Two teams that will fight for the lower playoff spots in the Eastern Conference will be the HAFTR Hawks and Waterbruy Wolfpack. The Hawks have been without star 11th grader Kevin Levy for a majority of the season, but his return has come at the perfect time, with two games remaining in the regular season. The Wolfpack have pulled off a few impressive victories, with their road defeat of the DRS Wildcats being the most noteworthy. The Wolfpack currently sit at a.500 record with four difficult games remaining on their schedule. If they can pull off a few more victories, expect to see them in the playoffs.
As the season progresses a few teams to watch out for will be the Magen Abraham Kings, HANC Hurricanes, Rambam Ravens and YDE Thunder. Despite not having the greatest start to the season each of these teams have made sure to get the victory column at least once and with several games left on each of their schedules, these teams will compete for one of the lower spots in the playoff bracket. It is not too late for any of these teams to make a run!
We are just about at the midway point of the regular season, but with plenty of games left to play anything is still possible.
Make sure to check this section weekly for all updates and the latest news from around the Yeshiva League. Also make sure to check out Yeshiva League Pass on Instagram and their website for nightly updates on varsity basketball and hockey.
Ikey Gutlove is the Jewish Link sports intern. Please contact [email protected] if you have interest in contributing to this column by providing stories and updates from any high school athletic teams.
By Ikey Gutlove