July 25, 2024
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USA U18 Girls Place in Maccabi Pan American Games

Team USA after their first win of the tournament.

The Maccabi Pan American Games, played every four years in a South American country, is an Olympic style event bringing Jewish athletes together from all over the world. The USA U18 girls basketball team went to Buenos Aires, ready to accept a difficult challenge ahead of them. Their performance was nothing short of inspiring as they navigated the challenges of not only coming together as a team for the first time, but also facing the unique circumstance by competing in the Open Division, playing against women as much as a decade older with impressive college basketball resumes. This scenario added an extra layer of difficulty to their journey, however the USA delegation was determined to bring an 18U girls basketball team to the Pan Am games for the first time in over 12 years.

The team, comprised of girls from the Yeshiva League, various Jewish day schools, and public schools nationwide, represented a great collective of talent and backgrounds. While the diversity of players spanned across different educational settings, living in multiple states, the team’s shared passion for basketball and their connection to Judaism solidified their unity.

Coach Lee Joffe preparing his team during a timeout.

A notable aspect was the team’s youth, with two sophomores, merely 15 years old, who were part of the starting line up. The entire team had the incredible courage in facing seasoned opponents, including a recent four-year starter in Division 1 and a semi-professional team from Argentina. This not only showed their athletic prowess but also their resilience in a challenging environment. As a result of their dedication, it made every game a success, regardless of the score.

The international stage proved to be a phenomenal learning experience for the team , both on and off the court. Competing against adult opponents not only enhanced their skills, but also broadened their perspective in this global tournament. SAR Athletic Director Lee Joffe, serving as head coach, conveyed a valuable message to this team throughout their time in Argentina: You’re not always going to be the biggest and strongest in every game you play in, but the size of the effort can affect the outcome just as much. With that message, Joffe instilled in the girls that they should not only play to win, but also play with their heads held high as they stepped onto the court and never looked back. It was a mere 10 days later, they arrived back in the U.S., carrying with them the memories of this once in a lifetime experience as well as their bronze medals!

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