Monday, March 27, 2023

A common nationwide theme for basketball at this time of year is how legends shine in the light when it matters most. This was prevalent during the MYHSAL varsity basketball semifinal matchup between the SAR Sting and North Shore Lions in a matchup that may go down as one of the most memorable games in recent history.

The Sting entered this matchup coming off a successful regular season and a comfortable quarterfinal victory at home against the DRS Wildcats. For the first time all season, the Sting were viewed as the underdogs due to the prowess displayed by the Lions throughout the regular season being the lone undefeated team combining for an impressive 15-0 record entering the semifinal matchup on their homecourt.

For the Lions, a semifinal victory would clinch their first appearance in the championship game since the 2013-14 season where the firepower of star players Cody Cohen and Josh Shmuel, combined with the coaching of Elliot Steinmetz led North Shore to the promised land. On the opposing end, the Sting were hungry for redemption after reaching the 2021-22 championship game, yet falling short of bringing home the hardwood. With much motivation and determination from both teams, schools and fanbases this semifinal matchup did not disappoint.

Right off the opening jump the Lions displayed why they were yet to be defeated on the season. Junior guard Jonah Carmili hit a quick 3-pointer on the opening possession and would go on to score seven of the first 10 points for the Lions, while the Sting were yet to convert on a field goal. The Sting would score their lone field goal of the quarter off an Andrew Helft corner 3-pointer, while the Lions advantage grew to 22-6 at the end of the first quarter.

In an effort to force turnovers and minimize the deficit the Sting came out in a full court trap which proved to work to their advantage. On the offensive end for the Sting, guards Andrew Helft and Akiva Schanzer distributed the ball with expertise, finding big men Benny Neurwirth and Gabriel Sklar in the paint for easy baskets. At the half, the Lions still held an 11 point advantage, but with half the game still to play a comeback was not ruled out yet.

On the first possession of the second half Schanzer hit a quick 3-pointer to cut the lead to single digits for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. Schanzer would go on to score the next five points for the Sting contributing to a 10-2 Sting run to cut the Lion’s lead to three points with five minutes left in the third quarter. After a defensive stop, Schanzer found his backcourt partner Helft open for a three to tie the game. Throughout the rest of the quarter leads were swapped, but entering the final quarter the Lions held a 3-point advantage due to a pair of free throws from Ben Fallack.

The fourth quarter started out in a similar fashion to the previous period with an exchange of leads, but then the legends of March had their opportunity to shine. Senior forward David Orbach single-handedly went on a 10-0 run due to his inability to be stopped in the paint and taking sole control of the offensive glass. Despite being down by 10 points in what could potentially be the final minutes of the Sting’s season, Schanzer answered Orbach’s run with one of his own by nailing two consecutive 3-pointers and then finding Neurwirth for five points.

The Lions would go on to regain a two point lead and with 30 seconds remaining the ball was in the hands of the Sting. Despite drawing up an excellent play the Sting could not convert on a layup. Jonah Carmili had the ice in his veins and knocked down a pair of free throws, sealing the Lion’s entry to the championship game.

Even though the Sting came up short, this season was by no means a disappointment. A 12-2 regular season, first round bye and a Sarachek Tier I appearance are just some of the accolades the Sting achieved this season. Up next for the Lions will be a trip to Yeshiva University to take on the Frisch Cougars in a battle for the MYHSAL championship.

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.

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