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Yeshiva High School Playoff Preview

Yeshiva High School Playoff Preview

By Elliot Weiselberg

With Winter Break behind us, we are only one week away from the beginning of the 2014-2015 MYHSAL playoffs. As one would expect, despite how close we are to the post-season, there is still much up in the air for junior varsity and varsity west conference hockey and basketball. Here is a comprehensive look at what can happen for each team still on the hunt for the post-season:

Hockey

Much like last year, the varsity west carries a great amount of drama into the final week of the season. For four teams, the postseason is still not a certainty and six games over the week will determine who is in, who is out and where teams will be heading for their matchups. Below is your guide to following the varsity west for the next eight days:

TABC Storm

The Storm have already locked up the varsity west 1 seed. They will enjoy home-court throughout the playoffs because they are guaranteed to accumulate the greatest number of points in the league. They have to play a desperate MTA team (see below, MTA) in order to maintain an undefeated season.

Most important game remaining: versus MTA on February 3.

SAR Sting

SAR clinched a playoff berth and captured the 2 seed in the west. The Sting cannot be caught; they hold the tiebreaker over the only team that can match them in points, Kushner. They will now wait to see who winds up in the 3 seed in the east and host the first-round match in Riverdale.

Most important game remaining: versus JEC on February 3. Much the same as with TABC, except JEC isn’t fighting for anything, having been eliminated before winter break. This game is meaningless for the standings, but important for momentum. JEC does, however, stand to benefit from this game as it will get to test the potency of its offense against a team with one of the top goalies in the league.

Kushner Cobras

Kushner is in an interesting position. The Cobras can find themselves as high as the 3 seed, or even as low as not even making the postseason. Should they win their remaining two games with Ramaz and MTA, Kushner will earn the west 3 seed. With any less than four points out of its remaining two games, Kushner will be at the mercy of Frisch. At the very least, Kushner needs one point to clinch. A tie or an overtime loss to either Ramaz or MTA will earn Kushner a post-season berth. However, seeds will depend on Frisch and MTA’s other games. If Kushner reaches 20 points, it places as the 3 seed, although the likelihood is slim because Frisch will most probably push them into the 4 seed. Should Kushner lose both of their remaining games and stay at 16 points, it stands the chance, albeit slim, of missing out on the postseason. This depends on how MTA fares against TABC. A 5 seed and a play-in game on the road is the most likely outcome.

Most important game remaining: versus Ramaz on February 6.

A Kushner win against Ramaz means a chance at the 3 seed; a loss could leave Kushner fighting for its playoff lives. To make it more interesting, this is the first time that these teams will face off this year and this is the only game with weighty implications for both teams’ playoff outlook. If you were a Yeshiva League fan looking to catch one west game this week, this would be it.

Frisch Cougars

Frisch lost the ability to control its own destiny with an overtime loss to Kushner prior to the break, in a game that the Cougars were leading until the last two minutes of regulation. Before that dive, Frisch virtually had 3 seed locked up. Now it will need to wait out Kushner’s schedule to see where it places. There is a slim chance that Frisch could still wind up in the 5 seed or, even slimmer, that it miss the playoffs altogether. The Cougars need only one point to clinch, and a game remaining against winless Westchester makes it a heavy probability that the they will achieve a berth and avoid a road play-in game. This is assuming MTA does not manage to win all of its remaining games, a highly difficult task. Two wins and Frisch is guaranteed at least a home play-in game against the east 5 seed with the possibility of more.

Most important game remaining: versus Flatbush on February 4.

The Cougars are in a must-win with Flatbush if they harbor any hopes of avoiding a play-in game. Flatbush, however, is looking to do the same for the east division, and will enjoy home-court in this matchup.

Ramaz Rams

Ramaz sits in the most precarious position of all teams still in the playoff hunt. At 14 points, even a win over Kushner will not guarantee Ramaz a playoff berth. They will still need help from the TABC game, or be left to hope that the MTA-Kushner game does not go to overtime in order to clinch. That being said, the likelihood of MTA reaching the 16 point plateau is still slim and even at 14, Ramaz still holds the tiebreaker over the Lions. It is a virtual certainty that the Rams will be in a play-in game. The remaining question is whether they will be the 4 or 5 seed. To reach 4, Kushner will have to lose their game with MTA.

Most important game remaining: versus Kushner on February 6.

MTA Lions

The Lions control their own destiny, but have an impossible schedule to get to the post-season. MTA can still earn the third seed, but will have to defeat TABC twice and defeat Kushner and other games must play out in its favor as well.

Right now, the Lions’ focus is to earn as many points as possible in the last three games and hope that other teams falter along the way. One extremely interesting scenario to watch for occurs if MTA takes a win over TABC, defeats Kushner and sees Ramaz defeat Kushner. All three teams would then end up at 8-6 (16 points). The three-way tiebreak would then go to Ramaz, while Kushner and MTA would be forced to have a play-in game with each other for the fifth and final playoff spot.

Most Important Game Remaining: Either of the games with TABC. In order to make the playoffs, the Lions must earn at least three points in these two games. Anything less and the game against Kushner could very well be irrelevant to the rest of the proceedings for the Lions.

Junior Varsity Hockey

Frisch Cougars

Frisch has already clinched the western conference crown and thereby making a top-three seed in the playoffs, along with DRS and Flatbush. As Frisch has at least 18 points and Flatbush has already concluded their season with 17, the Cougars will be in one of the top two spots. The opportunity for the 1 seed depends upon the result of their game with SAR, and DRS’s game with HAFTR. Both DRS and Frisch have already once defeated their remaining opponents, suggesting the game will require a coin-flip because of a tie at the top. In the alternate scenario, whomever earns more points in their last game will earn the top spot.

JEC Thunder

JEC has finished its season with 16 points, one behind Flatbush, while playing for the central division crown. The Thunder now await HAFTR in the first round. The only lingering question is where the game will be played. Currently, JEC sits at 16 points in the 4 seed as the highest non-division winner. The HAFTR Hawks are just behind them at 15 points, and are locked into the 5 seed at the very least. Should HAFTR win its remaining game against DRS, the Hawks and Thunder will square off in Lawrence. With any other result, the game will be played in Elizabeth. Ironically, these teams faced each other last year in a play-in game of the playoffs, when there were only two divisions that followed the same format as varsity. The road team HAFTR defeated JEC in that contest 4-1.

SAR Sting and TABC Storm

Both the Storm and the Sting have clinched playoff berths, and will each be traveling to one of the three division winners in the first round of the playoffs. Where they go will depend on what happens in each of their games, as well as HANC’s remaining game with North Shore; HANC defeated Northshore 3-1 back in November. Should HANC be victorious again, or at the very least make it to overtime, SAR and TABC will be relegated to the 7 or 8. That difference would be decided by the results of the SAR-Frisch and TABC-MTA games. If the games do not break the current SAR/TABC tie, it will come down to a coin flip as, in a rare occurrence, both of the games that these teams played against one another this season. Those previously played tossed games ended in ties, by the scores of 1-1 in the SAR game and 4-4 in the TABC game. In this case, they may also not know their opponents until another coin flip is performed. (See Frisch above.)

The most interesting scenario to watch for is where HANC loses to North Shore in regulation and TABC and SAR both win their games. In that case, all three teams would be tied at 16 points. As of this writing, it is uncertain how the tiebreaking procedures will work, as the league has not yet released them. Nonetheless, the following is a speculative look at what might occur: It would be unfair to use head-to-head as a tiebreak, given that HANC has not faced either team. Moreover, it is difficult to decide where one team is 0-0 and the two others are 0-0-2. That being said, the next tiebreak could be “ties over overtime loses.” Here, HANC—as a result of its two overtime losses this season, as opposed to the two ties for both TABC and SAR—would be knocked out and down to the 8 seed, while TABC and SAR would then need a coin flip to decide who would be the 6 and 7 seeds.

Varsity Basketball

The playoff outlook for the West is pretty straightforward. The six teams have already been determined and there isn’t a possibility of a messy tie that can’t be easily sorted out—unlike in the east, where it is much more chaotic.

Heschel Heat

The Heat, the surprise team of the regular season, are undefeated and have already locked up the varsity west 1 seed. They will enjoy home court throughout the playoffs. Heschel will play two games in the last week of the regular season, both against playoff teams, one fighting for positioning (SAR) and one fighting for pride (Frisch).

Most important game remaining: versus Frisch on February 4.

Any time that the top two teams in a division face, it is bound to be an explosive matchup. The Heat have already taken a game from the Cougars on the road this season. If Heschel can win this game in a convincing fashion heading in to the post-season, it will raise the intimidation factor for any team that will need to travel to the City. It will also validate Heschel’s status as the best bet to knock off DRS, which itself is considered by Jewish Hoops America to be the top team in the nation. Heschel, appropriately, is currently number 2.

Frisch Cougars

Frisch, at 9-3 can neither advance nor fall from the 2 seed. The Cougars hold the tiebreaker over either of the two teams that can match them in wins. More likely, the other team should rise above the 9 win mark, given that both play a game against last-place Kushner.

Most important game remaining: versus Heschel on February 4.

The Cougars need this game for momentum. After nail-biters against both TABC and SAR—teams at the bottom of the playoff picture—the Cougars need a statement win heading into the playoffs. Amassing a bit of revenge against Heschel should also help boost the confidence that the Cougars will need as they appear to be on a collision course with DRS—for the second year in a row and third for the seniors on the team—for a semi-final showdown.

JEC Thunder and Hillel Heat

Both the Thunder and the Heat are fighting for the 3 seed in the west. The two teams will face on Saturday February 6. The winner is guaranteed a ninth win and the 3 spot. What happens to the loser depends on which team ends up with the loss; that team can still be caught by SAR, should SAR defeat Heschel and TABC.

If JEC loses, it will not fall below the 4 seed because it holds the tiebreaker over SAR—having defeated the Sting twice—and will host SAR in the west. Hillel, however, does not.  As SAR defeated the Heat in the only contest between the two teams, 67-61, SAR would jump Hillel into the 4 seed and host the Heat in the first-round.

Most important game remaining: The extremely well-timed game against each other.

SAR Sting and TABC Storm

These two teams may be involved in the messiest of the west playoff possibilities. Both have two games remaining, one against an undefeated teams (Heschel and DRS) and one against each other. Currently, SAR holds the tiebreak with a 45-42 win in late December, and another SAR win would put them out of TABC’s reach, rendering the tiebreak moot. In the event that TABC wins, however, its other games will determine the 5 seed. If the Storm and Sting are tied at either 6—with TABC going 1-1 and SAR going 0-2—or 7 wins—with TABC going 2-0 and SAR going 1-1—the series would be even. Tiebreak would then go to “record against playoff teams,” which, in either case, would be TABC.

Most important game remaining: against each other on February 2.

Yet another extremely well-timed game. The NFL only wishes that it could have the foresight that these coaches do with regard to scheduling.

Junior Varsity Basketball

The JV west is even simpler than the varsity west. The top four seeds have already been determined. The only real drama comes down to one game.

Frisch has clinched the top spot by virtue of a win over SAR. Thus it has the tiebreaker should Frisch lose to Kushner, and should SAR win its last two games against Heschel and MTA.

Because SAR holds the tiebreak over JEC and TABC (having beaten both), it is guaranteed the 2 seed, even if it were to lose its last two games.

JEC is guaranteed the 3 seed; it holds the tiebreak over TABC, having defeated the TABC Storm 49-44 in overtime during the season. TABC will therefore hold the 4 seed as no other team below it can reach the 7-win mark.

The segments of the JV west that have not been decided are the 5 and 6 seeds. Ramaz is guaranteed one of these two spots. Which seed it takes will be determined by who the final entrant is, be it MTA or Maor. Currently, Maor is 5-5 and MTA is 5-4. For the Lions, the only one of the two with a game remaining, the mission is clear: only a win will earn a post-season berth. Should MTA win, it will be at 6-4—tied with Ramaz but ahead in the tiebreaker, having defeated the Rams 52-49 in mid-December—giving MTA the 5 seed and a date with TABC while Ramaz would finish in 6 and go on the road to JEC. If, however, MTA were to lose, it would fall into a tie with Maor at 5-5, which would not bode well for the Lions, having lost to Maor 30-25 in early December. MTA would find itself on the outside looking in, while Maor would grab the 6 seed at 5-5 and go on the road to JEC. At the same time, Ramaz at 6-4 would be the 5 seed and head to TABC.

Elliot Weiselberg is the host of the Court Report on the Nachum Segal Network as well as the voice of the JM in the AM Sports Update for Nachum Segal airing on Tuesdays at approximately 7:20 a.m. Elliot has served in numerous capacities including referee, analyst and commentator, and currently coaches Rambam Varsity Hockey as well as the YCQ Wildcats of the New York Junior High Hockey League.

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