June 22, 2024
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SAR HS JV Boys Basketball Wins Katz Yeshiva Tournament Championship

Following a 7-3 regular season record, the SAR High School JV boys basketball team flew to Florida on February 5, to take part in a three-day tournament at Katz Yeshiva High School. The annual tournament, consisting of eight teams from New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and California, included very competitive basketball. There were two brackets with four teams in each, and those four schools played each other in the preliminary round. SAR was tasked with playing Ramaz, HAFTR and Akiba Yavneh (Dallas) in a 24-hour span.

After losing to Ramaz in the opener, SAR handedly defeated HAFTR and Akiba Yavneh. At 3-0, Ramaz was the #1 seed in the semifinal and SAR advanced to the semifinal behind a 2-1 record. In the other bracket, both Frisch and Katz advanced to the semifinal with 2-1 records, with Shalhevet and North Shore playing in consolation games. The stage was set for the final day of the tournament, where SAR would face Frisch and Katz would match up with Ramaz. Despite being down 27-15 in the second quarter against the Cougars, SAR did not lose hope and went on a 10-0 run. The deficit at the half was surmountable and the Sting opened the second half with four consecutive steals on each defensive possession. SAR continued to build a lead, eventually emerging victorious with a 57-49 win. Freshman sensation Ari Halpert led the Sting with 24 points and sophomore dynamo Matteas Ellis chipped in 10, his third double-figure scoring game out of the first four games in the tournament. In the other semifinal, Ramaz defeated Katz on its home court, despite being down 13 early. The championship game was scheduled for just a few hours later between longtime rivals SAR and Ramaz.

At 1:15 p.m. on February 7, the title game began in Boca Raton. The Sting and Rams had already played each other three times over the prior few months, with SAR winning the first match up and Ramaz the next two games. The first quarter at Katz was a shootout and Halpert scored eight points, including two breathtaking 3-pointers. SAR only had one turnover in the quarter and rebounded very well. The rest of the first half was a seesaw battle, with no team able to take a comfortable lead. Sophomore star Sam Weiss had some brilliant moves to the hoop and selfless assists, leading the Sting with three for the afternoon. Up 28-27 at the half, SAR knew it had its work cut out for them to capture the championship.

In the third quarter, Ellis displayed some spectacular handles and replicated a jaw-dropping, Luka Doncic-style move that left the announcers screaming for quite some time. He was also charged with covering Ramaz’s most effective offensive weapon, Isaac Ohayon and Ellis performed quite admirably with the gargantuan task. SAR built its lead to seven, 40-33, at the end of the third. Impressively, SAR did not have a single turnover in quarters two or three. But the game was far from over and the Sting would need to play its best fourth quarter of the year to win the championship.

Indeed, the two “Aris” took over, with Ari Halpert continuing his magical tournament run with attacking the basket and a SportsCenter top ten shot block of a Ramaz player on the fast break with under four minutes to play. During the final quarter, sophomore big man Ari Blechner chipped in eight points off the bench and set the tone for the Sting with strong finishes despite defenders being draped over him. Blechner scored 11 on the afternoon. After building a 13-point lead, Ramaz pressed and cut the deficit to seven but in the end, SAR held on, winning the Katz Tournament championship, 56-48.

Halpert was the Sting’s most valuable player, leading SAR with a 16.8 points per game average. In the finale, he scored 17 and grabbed eight rebounds. Sam Weiss scored 11 humongous points and Matteas Ellis 10, giving SAR’s big three offensive weapons 38 out of their 56 points. Big men Caleb Eden and Evan Goldberg pulled down seven and six rebounds, respectively, and played phenomenal defense. Despite a devastating knee injury to team captain Darren Solomon, and with co-captain Caleb Eden playing despite a hurt shoulder, the Sting displayed tremendous resilience in finishing the tournament with four consecutive wins, hoisting the trophy for the second time in three years. A special thank you to all the participating teams and notably the tournament organizers from Katz Yeshiva High School, Athletic Director Kris Ruffo and Executive Director Shimmie Kaminetsky.


Michael Courtney has been coaching the SAR JV boys basketball team since 2007. At SAR, he is the director of College Counseling and the Guiding Good Choices coordinator.

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