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The Monday Night Miracle

June 4 will be a date etched in history all around our basketball world.

The Washington Mystics had nine lives as they fought and battled their way back to win the most amazing championship game in league history by a score of 81-79 in overtime.

“It was fun. We just never gave up because we knew we could win.” Those were the words from MVP Tia Solomon who poured in 22 points. She was sensational on both ends of the floor all game long. What was fun for her and her teammates, was a nightmare for the San Antonio Stars.

San Antonio stormed out to an early lead which they built up to 20 points. They couldn’t miss in the first half, as they scored 48 points. Pearl Magence (15 points), Danielle Crespo (16 points) and Ariella Kravitz (eight points) were on fire. With two seconds left in the half, Washington scored on an inbounds play to trim the deficit to 18. That bucket seemed to give the Mystics a tiny bit of hope as they just needed something to go their way.

Then came the second half and boy, did things change. Washington switched from a man-to-man to a zone defense, Cherie Smedile (26 points) started to get hot and as Steph Greenspan, a Yeshivat He’atid parent, controlled the defensive glass, Washington got their running game going. “It feels good to finally be a champion,” said Smedile. “It feels amazing to have finally won a championship. It was a hard fought win against a great team,” said Greenspan. The run occurred while Jen Sanders, Ma’ayanot athletic director, sat to start the half. Then, Pearl Magence, from SAR, went out and things got really bad for the Stars. San Antonio couldn’t make a shot and Washington took their biggest lead at three points. We thought they were going to pull away. Karisa Quimby, a CMEK coach at an after school program at BPY, Tori Lipari, and Tzipora Leiser, a Ma’ayanot and YU/Stern Basketball Alumni, each hit a big shot during the run.

But Alena Bloom would not give up and was the shotmaker in the second half. She scored 16, none bigger than a 3-pointer, to give the Stars a one point lead with under a minute to play in regulation. After a Washington miss, the Stars brought the clock down to 30 seconds and Bloom then drilled both foul shots to give her team a three point lead. After a failed 3-point attempt to tie the game, the ball landed in the sure fire hands of Aliza Hiller (18 points), a physical education teacher and director of girls’ athletics at Yavneh Academy, who put back the layup and was fouled. She hit the foul shot to tie the game with 10 seconds left. San Antonio quickly inbounded to Kush who called timeout.

This, to me, was the play of the game. Kush who scored 26 points, had the ball in her hands, but chose to call timeout. I listened to the San Antonio huddle. Mind you, this is a team with brilliant basketball minds, including two coaches. They didn’t seem to have a clear strategy for the final play. Should they have even called timeout in the first place? Kush had the ball in her hands with 10 seconds before the timeout was called—would she get it back? The answer was no. The ball went to Pearl Magence. Though the “Bling’ was money in the first half, her shots weren’t falling in the second half as you could tell San Antonio got tired (Anat Katizir is not in the country). She took a long range shot which missed, followed her shot and got off a shot attempt. The whistle blew for a foul and onlookers were unsure what the call was but soon time ran out and the teams headed to overtime.

And you just had the feeling that it was Washington’s Night. The Lovable Losers as they became to be known as were finally going to break-through. They were going to show the mental toughness to win a close game. After Washington took a two-point lead, San Antonio had their chance to tie it and even win it with a Jen Sanders 3, but it was not meant to be. The buzzer sounded and the smiles and joy of Washington were seen and heard all throughout New Jersey.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team. Feeling the loss big time. Going hard for the trophy next season.” Those were the only words sharp-shooter Alena Bloom could muster up after the heartbreaking defeat.

It was, indeed, the Monday Night Miracle.

By Chad Mekles

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