June 14, 2024
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RYNJ Jaguars Sixth Grade Boys Win It All

Rookies don’t always make the playoffs. At RYNJ. rookies win championships. In their first year playing for their school, the RYNJ sixth grade basketball team shocked the Yeshiva League. Led by coach Eli Wolk and assistant coach Dani Wolk, the team already had an advantage. The Jaguars blew through the regular season with an incredible 7-1 record, losing only to the Noam Knights. When asked about his team’s success, Coach Wolk was very impressed with this team. He recalled a moment in practice before the season about the drive for a championship. Coach Wolk said: “If we want a banner, we need to earn it.” That’s exactly what they did. They earned it.

Sunday night June 12, at 8 p.m. in the Ma’ayanot gym, was a date, place and time that could not be ignored. Fans from all across the state of New Jersey were in attendance to watch the highly anticipated championship game. The stands were filled with alumni, family and friends, loudly cheering on the Jaguars. RYNJ was about to take on a skilled Moriah team that beat Hillel in the semifinal round. The championship game would be a real test for the Jaguars as they would be playing without key contributor Yonah Jutkowitz. Moriah played hard all season and their 6-2 record proved that. With a combination of shooting and defense, Moriah grabbed a 20+ point victory over Hillel. Moriah’s next challenge would be beating a team they simply could not beat in the regular season. Moriah fell to the Jaguars twice during the season, and looked forward to their next chance at grabbing a win when it mattered the most: the championship game.

From the opening tip until the end of the game, both RYNJ and Moriah came with the same championship intensity. Moriah opened the game on a quick run, digging RYNJ into a 17-2 hole after about five minutes of gameplay. RYNJ could not buy a bucket for the whole first quarter, but ended up cutting Moriah’s lead to 11 after late baskets by Ezra Adams and Daniel Yablok. The second quarter showed some light for the Jags. Strong defensive rebounds by Ozzy Moskowitz halted any Moriah runs and four second chance points by Ari Greenberg propelled the Jaguars to a 8-0 run to close out the half. Going into the locker room, the Jags found themselves back in the game only down 30-20. In the halftime locker room, Assistant Coach Wolk urged his team to play with more drive for the win. Coach Wolk told his team “We need to want it more. It’s a long game and anything can happen, but we need to want it more than them. If we want it more than them, we will win this game.” It seemed like after that speech, the Jaguars mentality changed from wanting a championship to needing a championship.

The Jaguars came out of halftime on a whole other level. In the third quarter, Tani Stein scored 10 of his 16 second half points, while Shai Bickel added four of his own. Bickel and Stein’s perimeter defense was excellent in the third, each stealing the ball three times and holding Moriah to a total of five points in the quarter. The Jaguars entered the fourth quarter with a five point lead and never lost it. Shai Bickel grabbed two more steals and took them for easy fast break points. Tani Stein then answered a Moriah 3-pointer by dropping six consecutive points off difficult shots. After Moriah cut the lead to two, Adams drained a pair of free throws to keep the Jaguars ahead. Greenberg then hit a deep midrange shot to extend the Jaguars lead. Ami Hochbaum grabbed four boards, blocked two shots and hit a clutch free throw all in the span of two and a half minutes to seal the game in favor of the Jaguars. The RYNJ Jaguars completed their quest for a championship. They achieved exactly what they set out to do when they first started practicing. RYNJ played like champions all year and finally got their reward.

By Donny Book

 

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