(CMEK) The Moriah School’s fourth grade CMEK travel basketball team is Hoop Heaven AAU fall league champion.
Unlike their playoff opponents whose teams were composed of the best players from multiple towns, the champions were all Englewood residents who attend The Moriah School.
The boys survived an uphill battle in the playoffs, outlasting the only two teams to beat them during the regular season. The first of those two losses came against the Mustangz AAU, whose stingy 2-3 zone defense was too much for the boys to overcome. The team’s second and final loss was a blowout defeat to Hoop Dreamz AAU, the preseason favorites and #1 seed in the playoffs.
The team’s major breakthrough came following its second loss when coach Chad Mekles, decided to scrap the starting five and split his top six scorers into two separate five player rotations. The strategy created more opportunities for everyone to contribute, while displaying the chemistry each unit had during their weekly team scrimmages.
When the playoff schedule was released, the team learned that their seminfinals and finals were scheduled for the same day, with a one hour break between games. The #1 seed, Hoop Dreamz, were scheduled to play their semifinal game three days prior and would be well-rested compared to their opponent in the finals.
The first 10 minutes of the semifinal against Munstangz was a defensive struggle. The boys were still struggling to break the Mustangz’ zone, but matched their defensive intensity, thanks to defensive stalwarts James Gurfein and Will Goldberg—two players that week after week took on the assignment of guarding their opponents’ top scorers.
The second unit entered the game at the 10 minute mark of the first half with the Mustangz leading 2-0. The boys immediately sped up the tempo by pushing off every Mustangz miss and not letting them get comfortable in their zone. In the course of less than a minute the boys scored three fast break baskets on assists by Nate Halali to Judah Rosen and Will Fischman, followed by a fast break 3-pointer by Halali. At the nine minute mark, the score was 9-2 CMEK. The second unit continued the momentum in the first half with a beautiful assist by Teddy Simony to the trailing Brody Spizner for a huge basket before the half.
The Mustangz made a run in the second half and trailed by just two with three minutes remaining. At this point Coach Chad subbed in the original starting lineup of Gurfein, Simony, Halali, Jonah Schechter and Jonah Fried. With two minutes remaining in a two point game, Fried pulled down an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Halali who swished a 3-pointer to the crowd’s delight. The following possession saw every player on the team touch the ball before Schechter assisted Halali on the game-sealing three pointer.
After a 38-28 victory in the semis, it was on to the finals. Led by Gurfein and Fried, the boys came out with an intensity on both sides of the ball that was absent in their early season loss to the league favorites. Max Seligsohn contributed with a baseline jumper early on and Gurfein hit an unbelievable buzzer beating three to end the first half and swing the momentum going into the final 20 minutes.
With the game still up for grabs with two minutes to go, Coach Chad called timeout and drew up the play that would solidify the championship. With the opponents overplaying their man for a possible inbound steal, Fried sprinted towards the basket from half court. He was rewarded by a perfect inbound pass from Teddy Simony and scored the championship clinching layup. Final score: CMEK 32 - Hoop Dreamz 25.
Mazal tov to the players on an incredible season and to their families for the unwavering support!