May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

RYNJ Wins 2024 HALB Invitational Tournament

If you have been following the eighth grade boys RYNJ Jaguars basketball team this season, you would know that you were witnessing something very special. Exactly a month ago, they brought home the YMSSA eighth grade championship and today, they did the same with the 2024 HALB invitational tournament. Made up of 11 talented teams from the New York and New Jersey areas and one team from Los Angeles, California, this tournament, now in its fourth year, has become the premiere eighth grade tournament in the country (the eighth grade version of Sarachek if you will). This tournament is not for the faint of heart. Starting with 8:20 a.m. Shacharit, each team is guaranteed to play three games at a minimum. For those teams fortunate to win the first two rounds, you can then play two additional games (I’m exhausted just writing about this). All in all, we were in that gym for 12 hours.

As always, Coach Eli Wolk, still considered to be one of the best Jewish eighth grade coaches in the nation, had his team ready, poised and hungry for another championship. Opening up against a familiar opponent in Moriah, the Jaguars asserted their dominance early and often. While Moriah made a late push, the Jaguars held on for the win getting strong contributions from a number of players. Next came the Flatbush Falcons who pushed the Jaguars to their limit. But with an amazing effort from Shai Bickell with 20 points, and clutch baskets down the stretch, the Jaguars came out on top.

After a very long break, the Jaguars faced a tough opponent in the North Shore Lions. The beginning of the game showed fatigue on both sides but then the Jags did what they did all season, turning it on in the second half behind a very strong performance from Ezra Adams with over 25 points leading to a dominating win. In the semi-finals against the host HALB team, the Jags were exhausted, falling behind by more than 11 points in the first half but cut into the lead starting the second half. With strong efforts from their big men as well as their bench, the Jags pulled away and made it to the championship game against the Hillel team from Los Angeles.

This was a great game with both teams going back and forth. The Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy team was simply on fire from the 3-point line hitting more than 15 3s throughout the game. But Coach Wolk kept cool, calm and collected and his team followed his lead. With Tani Stein putting in 18 points, and Adams dropping 19 points with numerous clutch free throws to close out the game, you could not write a more perfect ending to this magical season when that final buzzer sounded and the Jags hoisting up yet another championship trophy.

While Adams ended up winning the MVP for the tournament, this was truly a team effort with each player playing their role to perfection. This article is written with both immense joy and hakaras hatov in my heart but also nostalgia watching this historic team play for the last time together for the RYNJ Jaguars. I cannot thank the coaches enough for not only producing a championship team, but always ensuring that midot and always representing the school in a Torah way, were always at the forefront. The best compliment I heard another parent say: “This is not only a great team, but clearly a bunch of menches.” Go Jags!

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