The inaugural Hoops for Heroes Yashar LaChayal eighth grade boys basketball tournament is underway, benefiting Yashar LaChayal, a non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of those serving in the IDF. Yashar LaChayal was founded during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Among its many projects are the building and maintenance of a chain of “Warm Corner” rest stations for soldiers on patrol throughout the country, the “Injured Soldiers Fund” to support those who are injured in Israel’s defense, and the “IDF Widows and Orphans Fund” which assists the bereaved families of fallen soldiers.
With the tournament being coordinated by Judah and Carol Rhine, funds raised by participants and sponsors will go towards three of Yashar LaChayal’s flagship projects: Needy Soldier Fund—which provides various forms of support (holiday food packages, grocery assistance, furniture, appliances and more) to soldiers who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The Base Enhancement Project—which provides rec rooms and gyms on army bases with furniture and equipment, will also be supported by the tournament proceeds. Finally, and appropriately, funds will go towards Yashar LaChayal’s weekly hosting of off-duty soldiers at home games of Hapoel Jerusalem, one of Israel’s most popular basketball teams.
The tournament features yeshiva day schools from the New York/New Jersey metro area including HANC, Yeshiva Har Torah, HALB, JEC, Magen David Yeshiva, Manhattan Day School, Ramaz, Yeshiva Derech HaTorah, Hillel Yeshiva and Yeshivat Shaare Torah.
The first preliminary game of the 2018 Hoops for Heroes Basketball Tournament on November 5, was filled with great anticipation and enthusiasm featuring cross town rivals MDS Mavericks and the Ramaz Rams facing off in the Ramaz gym. Ramaz raced out to a quick 9 - 0 lead. MDS then scored six straight points to cut the lead to 9-6. Ramaz then went on a 7-0 run and held a 16-6 halftime lead. The teams played evenly in the third quarter and Ramaz maintained their advantage with a 23-12 lead after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the teams continued to trade baskets but the lead was too much and Ramaz secured a 35-21 victory in the opening game of this year’s tournament. MDS was led by Andy Samuels with 13 points while Ramaz was led by Elliot Davis with 10 points, Samuel Ostad with nine points and Nathan Haber with seven points.
The second preliminary Hoops for Heroes game took place on Thursday November 8, at Magen David Yeshiva. The game started off very fast as HALB raced out to a 6-0 lead. In an attempt to get back into the game, MDY applied a full court press and was able to cut into the HALB lead. The high scoring first quarter ended with HALB having 16-12 lead. In the second quarter, HALB was able to break the MDY press efficiently and built up a huge halftime advantage with a score of 36-20. After half time, MDY was determined to cut into the lead even more, and they did so outscoring HALB in the quarter but still trailing by a score of 45-36 after three quarters. MDY continued to hit threes, and reduced the deficit on several occasions but HALB was able to prevail by a final score of 61-48. Leading MDY was Jack Elo who had five threes and finished with 17 points. HALB was led by Aharon Cohen with 18 points, Ari Saffra with 10 points and Isaac Solomon with eight points.
Preliminary game three on November 21, featured the HALB Lions hosting the JEC Thunder. HALB got off to a quick 6-0 start but JEC came right back and tied the score at 6-6. After trading baskets the team ended a high scoring first quarter even at 16 apiece. The seesaw battle continued into the second quarter with JEC pulling out to a five point lead. HALB came right back with a run of its own and held a 26-23 lead at halftime. In the second half, HALB’s pressure defense forced turnovers which led to baskets and HALB took command of the game with a 54-42 lead after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, JEC managed to cut the lead to five but HALB stormed right back and secured a 59-46 victory. Leading the way for HALB was Isaac Solomon with 22 points, Aharon Cohen with 15 points and Ari Saffra with nine points. JEC was led by Rami Rozehzadeh with 19 points and Reuven Rozehzadeh with 10 points.
Preliminary games will continue throughout the month of November. Participating student athletes have their own fundraising pages where family and friends can contribute to Israel’s soldiers. The players from the top fundraising school will win prizes. All the teams will come together to play on tournament grand finale Sunday, Dec. 16.
This support from the Jewish community in the tri-state area, is a real boon for Israel’s soldiers. As a Yashar LaChayal representative said, “Not everyone can be on the front lines, but by helping raise funds for these important projects you are showing the soldiers of Israel that you care about them and support them from across the world!”
By Amichai Bachrach and JLNJ Staff