Thursday, February 02, 2023

The Sunday afternoon playoff matchup between these two 7th grade basketball teams was a bit of a paradox. On one hand, Noam, led by Yechiel Kaiser, Benny Matheson, Avi Bodoff, Joe Baron, Jacob Lehrer, and Sammy Nat came in with a 7-3 record, and had already beaten Yavneh, which barely squeaked into the playoffs with a 3-7 record. On the other hand, on opening day, Yavneh had taken Noam to overtime on a Moshe Scharlat buzzer beater before losing, and demonstrated that they could stay right with the talented Knights. Could the boys from Farview Avenue pull off the upset?

The Knights started out hot, taking a 4-0 lead, but two long jumpers by Scharlat and forward Yosef Borodach tied it up at 4 all (no threes in this league, folks). Back-to-back buckets by forward Daniel Hirsch and stifling defense anchored by point guard Jack Reinhart (who also crashed the defensive boards with aplomb) and big man Isaiah Anderson gave Yavneh an 8-5 lead after one quarter.

Yavneh shuffled its lineup to start the second, and guards Ari Rosenberg and Leo Danishefsky joined forward Eli Jarashow getting out on the floor. With more lockdown defense and Anderson dominating the boards, taking a huge charge, and adding three buckets, Yavneh extended its lead to 16-9 at the half as Reinhart drove the lane and put in a layup with five seconds left. Kaiser and Matheson had acrobatic baskets for Noam to keep the Knights close.

The defensive battle continued as the teams were scoreless until the six minute mark of the third period when Baron hit a sweet baseline jumper to pull the Knights within 5. Borodach then answered with two big shots, Anderson another, and Yavneh extended its lead. Noam came right back behind Nat and Kaiser and at the end of three Yavneh’s lead was cut by one, at 22-16 going into the final stanza.

Rosenberg opened the scoring in the fourth with a jumper from the wing and then Anderson pushed the lead to10 with a driving swoop to the hoop. Rosenberg drilled another from the baseline and Yavneh was up 28-16 with 5:45 left. And then Rosenberg and Hirsch did that swish thing again, pushing the lead to 32-18. But anyone who plays Noam knows that Kaiser would be leading a run before all was said and done. He did not disappoint. 4 straight points by Kaiser and a slicing lefty drive by Matheson got the Knights their momentum back as they pulled within 8 with 1:18 left. But, after a foul, Anderson stepped to the line with all the pressure on his shoulders and drained two free throws—nothing but net—stopping the run and pushing the lead back to 10 at 34-24.

With the lineups shuffled for the end of the game, the Knights scored again, but Caleb Koppel put an exclamation point on the upset and the total team effort for Yavneh with a ferocious block to close the door on the 34-26 win.

Yavneh now meets top seed RYNJ in the semifinals.

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