The Ramaz Rams might have claimed the top spot of the Yeshiva League, but the culmination of the season and crown of North American Jewish high school basketball was handed out this past weekend at the annual Red Sarachek Memorial Tournament hosted at Yeshiva University. The Yeshiva League was well represented, sporting 10 of the 22 teams in the tournament, displaying talents that have awed the metropolitan area, but this time on a greater stage.
Some notable performances from Yeshiva League representatives included the MTA Lions winning the Tier III championship, making it their third consecutive tournament being crowned a victor. This performance was most impressive since the Lions played five games in five days and it all came down to several clutch shots from guards Abie Schwartz and Gavriel Rudman, as well as lockdown defense from Ezra Halpert. This victory came against another Yeshiva League team, the HAFTR Hawks, who were powered by sophomore Kevin Levy and senior star Haimy Salem.
The Yeshiva League also claimed the Tier II championship, by none other than the Ramaz Rams. Only a week earlier, the Rams were hoisting their hardware as league champions and this tournament gave them the chance to add to their trophy collection with a victory against a usual Tier II victim, the Ida Crown Aces. Nearly identical to their championship win, the Rams were led by the scoring willpower of seniors Julius Rubinstein and Cy Aminzadeh. Two championships in as many weeks—that’s definitely the way to end a high school basketball career.
As important as the Tier II and III championships are, nothing compares to Tier I. Three of the final four teams in this tier were hometown teams—the TABC Storm, SAR Sting and DRS Wildcats—while the final team was none other than future NBA draft prospect Ryan Turell’s alma mater, the Valley Torah Wolfpack. In the first semi-final game, the TABC Storm got off to a hot start against the Valley Torah Wolfpack, holding a double digit lead in the concluding minutes of the first half. The Wolfpack went on a silent, but crucial run to close out the half and narrowed the TABC lead to a minimal margin. In the second half, the story was all about the Wolfpack. Defensively, they only surrendered 10 second-half points to the Storm, while on the offensive end underclassmen Noam Mayouhas and Johnny Dan were unstoppable, clinching the win that would pit them against the victor of Yeshiva League rivals SAR Sting and DRS Wildcats.
Heading into Sarachek, the SAR Sting were coming off a championship game loss just a week earlier, while the DRS Wildcats were still mourning a quarter-final exit on their homecourt. The first three quarters was a story of traded baskets and runs with no team able to maintain a stable lead. This came to a halt when the Sting attempted to pull away with a 12 point lead with five minutes remaining in the game. The Wildcats were not ready to finish their season yet and they went on a 16-4 run to fight their way back and secure a spot in the last dance against the Valley Torah Wolfpack.
The Wildcats entered the game without junior phenom Isaac Solomon who was injured in their semi-final victory, but the team was not willing to let this disadvantage ruin their chance of winning their first Tier I championship since the glory days of Gabe Leifer. Unfortunately for DRS, the Wolfpack jumped out to a quick lead sparked by clutch shooting from Mayouhas and David Paz. The game seemed inevitable until a late 15-0 run by the Wildcats, led by top scorer in the tournament Ari Ivry, who eventually hit a layup to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game. The Wolfpack answered with a basket of their own, but the following sequence not only sealed the deal, but left all fans in awe. After a missed opportunity by DRS, the Wolfpack had possession of the ball with a chance to add on to their three point lead when Ivry picked off a pass. He appeared to be off and running for an easy fastbreak finish, when out of nowhere Dan, the Wolfpack’s superstar junior, came flying in for a swat off the backboard that nearly replaced Lebron James’ iconic block on Andre Iguadala in the 2016 NBA Finals. This block was crucial for the Wolfpack as it led to a seven point swing, ultimately giving them their first Sarachek championship in school history. Dan was awarded tournament MVP as his performance over the five day tournament, highlighted by his block which has gone viral on social media, left fans awaiting his return next year as a senior hoping to witness a repeat as champions.
The Red Sarachek Tournament was a captivating way to end the basketball season, with an appreciation for the coaches and graduating seniors, as well as having all eyes on next year’s potential for greatness.
Ikey Gutlove is the Jewish Link sports intern. Please contact [email protected] if you have interest in contributing to this column by providing stories and updates from any high school athletic teams.