July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Short-Handed Yavneh Upsets Undefeated Noam Eighth Grade Basketball

As the YMSSA Eighth Grade Boy’s season reached the halfway mark this past Thursday evening, the second place (4-1) Yavneh Red Hawks hosted the first place and undefeated (5-0) Noam Knights. This was a rematch of a classic game held a few weeks ago at Noam, when Yavneh’s furious fourth-quarter comeback fell just short. Yavneh held the rematch home court advantage in the new Yavneh gym, before a large and boisterous crowd. Nonetheless, Noam was the significant favorite because Yavneh’s star player Max Zakheim was out with an ankle injury. The crowd would not go home disappointed.

Early in the game it was not looking good for the Red Hawks. Noam raced to a 10-2 lead and Yavneh’s starting center, Amichai Citron, was on the bench after committing two fouls in the opening minute, leaving Coach Ushie Selevan even more short-handed. Yavneh kept its composure and after a series of aggressive successful drives to the basket by Akiva Feit, Dannny Weinberger and Eitan Dukas, a Coby Zwebner jumper gave the team its first lead. Yavneh’s trademark aggressive shut-down defense on the perimeter led to a shocking 20-17 lead for the home team when the halftime buzzer rang.

Coach Ushie’s key strategic decision to go big and insert power forward Ben Tyler into the lineup in place of the injured Zakheim, paid immediate dividends. Not only did Yavneh’s strategy of clogging the middle and denying the ball to Noam’s towering center Billy Krause work to perfection (5 points in the game), but Tyler set a career high with 9 points in his first start of the season.

When the second half began, Yavneh appeared to pull away. That momentum was stopped when the Red Hawks faced yet another obstacle; starting point guard Akiva Feit left to the locker room with apparent illness. Feit, however, showed the grittiness that has been the hallmark of this Yavneh team for three years and came right back on the court after missing just a minute of game action. Inspired by Feit’s return, despite his less than 100 percent, the rest of the game was a clinic in teamwork and tenacity for Yavneh. Danny Weinberger, with an assortment of acrobatic finishes with both hands, led the balanced attack with 13 points. He was followed closely by Citron (12), and Dukas. Feit and Tyler each chipped in 9 points and almost every basket was the result of an assist or a steal leading to a fast break.

Noam did not go down without a fight. Down 9 points with under 3 minutes to play, the Knights embarked on a strategy to put Yavneh on the foul line and earn the victory. Once Yavneh made only 10 of 24 free throws, and long distance gunner Ari Kaminetzky connected four times from well beyond the 3-point arc for Noam, Noam got within a single score. Despite Yoni Mann’s strong second half (17 points in the game) and Ruben Meltzer’s strong all around effort (12 points) for Noam, Feit, Weinberger and Dukas hit just enough clutch free throws in the final minute to allow Yavneh to hold onto a nail-biting 54-53 victory.

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