Tier IV champions Akiva Hebrew Day School of Detroit

Yeshiva University’s 24th annual Red Sarachek Memorial Basketball Tournament took place this past weekend. Twenty  yeshiva high-school varsity basketball teams from around the country are invited to participate in the annual tournament, a five-day extravaganza featuring extreme competition on the basketball court, off-court bonding amongst all the players, and a unique Shabbos. My wife Carol and I were honored to be guests at the “Sarachek Shabbos” this past week, and to say that we were impressed and extremely satisfied is an understatement. The YU staff goes to great lengths in assuring that every detail of the Shabbos is taken care of in a professional and menschlich way.

Tier IV champions Akiva Hebrew Day School of Detroit
Tier IV champions Akiva Hebrew Day School of Detroit

From the moment we arrived at the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown, there was a buzz from the tournament as well as a feeling of warmth from the impending arrival of Shabbos. All the guest-room locks were set up for Shabbos–i.e., only old-fashioned keys were used, and the electronic strips were deactivated. The players were transported from the Friday games at YU and made their way to the snack section at the Doubletree, and then on to their rooms to prepare for Shabbos.

The davening, zemiros, and bentching were led by the talented Shlomo Weissberg. Following a stirring Kabbalas Shabbos/Maariv, there were greetings from Matthew Schwartz, associate director of operations at YU admissions, who oversaw the entire event. The assemblage of over 400 people was then directed to the grand ballroom for the seudah. It was open seating for all; players sat with their teammates and also with players from other teams. We were fortunate to sit at a table that included Rabbi and Rebbetzin Bixon from Miami Beach; Shimmie Kaminetsky, executive director at Weinbaum High School in Boca Raton; Avrum and Yoni Stein from DRS; Dan Gibber from MTA; and Lior Hod, proud parent of a Frisch player and guest emeritus of the Sarachek Tournament.

The exquisite cuisine–which had all the traditional fixings, including gefilte fish, chicken soup, roast beef, barbecue chicken, potato kugel, and more–was catered by Five-Star Caterers of Teaneck and managed onsite by the Five Towns’ own David Kaye and Dani Rubin.

Back in the “shul,” we then heard from amazing motivational speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez, a public-school history teacher in Union, NJ, whose motto is “All In.” He related several personal experiences as proof that if you motivate yourself and stay the course, there is no limit to what you can achieve in life, on or off the court. He has been credited with giving motivational speeches to many diverse audiences, including NFL and NBA teams and large corporations, including Wal-Mart. Following his rousing presentation, he met with the participants for individual questions and gave out poker chips to all as a constant reminder that when faced with challenging situations, you must be determined to follow through, never give up, and push yourself to go “all in”–to commit to finishing what you set out to do. This applies to any aspect of one’s life.

The evening concluded with a lavish tisch. On Shabbos morning, following Shacharis, Hallel, the Torah reading, a sumptuous Kiddush, and Mussaf, the next speaker was Steve Bunin, of the Beren Academy in Houston, who is a former sports anchor at ESPN. He gave his own perspective and his personal ups and downs of being a Jew and striving to reach your goals, no matter the odds, no matter how hard it may be. The title of his talk was “Loss, Love, ESPN, Observance, and Basketball.” His message: If you focus on your goal, you will achieve it.

After the Shabbos seudah, including d’var Torah and zemiros, it was time for the annual Sarachek Extreme Jeopardy Extravaganza. Each of the 20 teams was paired with another team to compete in an exciting trivia challenge. In the afternoon, there was an address by YU Maccabees Coach Elliot Steinmetz and Assistant Coach Yogev Berdugo.

Having all the participants gather under one roof and spend a memorable and meaningful Shabbos away from the game action has great significance and meaning for all the players, especially those from out of town. As one who is heavily involved in youth basketball, I always emphasize that being part of a basketball team is more than just the games and the wins and losses. To bring about such an inspirational Shabbos smack in the middle of the basketball tournament is truly a kiddush Hashem.

We have been fortunate to attend many tournaments/Shabbatons over the years, and we know how much goes into an event such as this one. From the time we arrived till after Shabbos, everything ran smoothly. This is a true testament to the planning, preparation, and execution by all who participated at Yeshiva University. Yasher koach.

When asked, “What does the Red Sarachek Tournament mean to you?” participants provided a variety of perspectives. Willy Kluger of MTA said, “It’s an opportunity for Jewish ballplayers from around the country to meet and compete, and then spend Shabbos away from the court.” Abe Perlow of HAFTR said, “The unity of all schools striving for the same goal . . . offers hope.” Gabe Leifer of DRS said, “Meeting new people; getting invited means we had a successful season.” Sender Eizen of Akiva in Detroit said, “Great opportunity to learn about other schools and spend a Shabbos together.” And Lior Hod, a YU basketball legend and parent of participants for seven years in a row, said, “This is great for the kids . . . It’s the ultimate, you will make friends for life.” As Mathew Schwartz of the YU admissions office summed it up, “What I love about Sarachek is that it’s really a microcosm of what Yeshiva University is all about. Students from around the globe meet and develop strong relationships with each other, while fostering their own Jewish identity.”

  1. All 20 schools were seeded (ranked) to determine the matchups, and each participating school played four games over the course of the tournament. The rankings were as follows:

1—HAFTR; 2—DRS; 3—Frisch; 4—Beth Tefiloh, Baltimore; 5—Yula; 6—RASG, Miami Beach; 7—Valley Torah High School, North Hollywood, Calif.; 8—Shalhevet High School, Los Angeles; 9—Hillel, Deal, NJ; 10—Weinbaum, Boca Raton, Fla.; 11—Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Chicago; 12—Maimonides School, Boston; 13—David Posnack Jewish Day School, Davie, Fla.; 14—Fuchs Mizrachi, Beachwood, Ohio; 15—MTA; 16—Beren Academy, Houston, Texas; 17—Atlanta Jewish Academy; 18—Hebrew Academy of Montreal; 19—Yeshivat Or Chaim, Toronto; 20—Akiva Hebrew Day School, Detroit.

On-the-court action. In the Tier IV championship, it was Akiva Yeshiva of Detroit over MTA. In the Tier III championship, it was Weinbaum High School of Boca Raton over Maimonides High School of Boston.

The Ida Crown Aces are back-to-back Tier II champions at the Sarachek Tournament. The 11th-seeded Aces beat the 9th-seeded Hillel-NJ Heat by a final score of 49—39 in Monday’s championship game. Kevin Bokor, their star player, hit a close basket with 35 seconds left in the third quarter to earn his 1000th career point. That bucket also gave the Aces a 20-point lead going into the final frame. Nathan Bibi, the lone spark for the Hillel, finished the game with 22 points and 6 rebounds. Robert Tobias also added 10 points of his own. The Aces outscored Hillel 15—4 in the third quarter to put them ahead for good. The Heat pulled the game to within 5 points late in the fourth quarter, but the Aces were able to gut it out at the end.

In the Tier I championship game, the #3 Frisch Cougars faced off against the HAFTR Hawks, in a matchup of two of the Yeshiva League powerhouses. HAFTR advanced to the championship following a solid win against YULA in the semifinals. Frisch reached the championship by avenging a semifinal loss to DRS in the Yeshiva League playoffs, with a dramatic nail-biting victory in Sarachek. This featured game became an “instant classic.” In triple overtime, Frisch outlasted HAFTR by a score of 75—73. Benni Tuchman sealed the win–and the Tier I Championship–for Frisch by hitting a game-winning layup with just under three seconds left to play.

The early part of the game saw both teams feeling each other out, and with the lead changing hands several times, Frisch managed to hold a 3-point lead at halftime. In the third quarter, HAFTR recharged and took what a 5-point lead. But Frisch would not rest. Through patient execution, they were able to overcome the deficit and build a 6-point lead for themselves with just about a minute to play. Over the course of the last minute of regulation, it was raining threes all over the gym from both sides, and the game was headed to overtime.

What added to the drama was that many of the players on both teams were in deep foul trouble. In the first OT, the teams traded baskets; Frisch went up only to see HAFTR tie the score and go into the second OT. After HAFTR failed to convert on their opening possession, Frisch had the ball and managed to hold on to it for the remainder of the OT–almost 4 minutes. A timeout was called with 20 seconds left and then Frisch missed a desperation 3-point attempt.

The stage was now set for a dramatic and exciting conclusion. In the third OT, Frisch, backed up by incredible foul shooting led by Mayer Scharlat, managed to hold a 3-point lead with just over a minute left. After yet another game-tying 3-point shot by HAFTR guard Sammy Mandel with 1:22 remaining, Frisch decided once again to hold for the last shot–but this time, they were not relying on a desperation three.

After milking the clock for over one minute, Frisch guard Tyler Hod (named MVP of Sarachek) passed the ball to Beni Tuchman (named 1st team all-tournament) at the top of the key. With about six seconds remaining on the game clock, Tuchman, under intense defensive pressure, drove to the basket and made what was ultimately the game-winning shot with just less than three seconds remaining. HAFTR had the chance for one last shot. Their shot from three-quarters court fell way short of the basket, icing the win for the Frisch Cougars, 75—73.

Abie Perlow (named 1st team all-tournament), who had a tremendous championship performance, led HAFTR with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Jonathan Greenberg (named 1st team all-tournament), scored 14 points in regulation before fouling out with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter. Max Rosner finished with 16 points, including two clutch three-pointers. Also finishing in double digits was Sammy Mandel, who scored 12 points.

Frisch was led by tournament MVP Tyler Hod, who finished the championship contest with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Tuchman, Scharlat, and Andrew Langer all finished in double digits as well, with 15 points each.

Both teams should feel very proud of their efforts, both in this championship game and throughout the season.

At the conclusion of this heart-pounding contest, the assembled crowd, estimated at over 1,000 fans, drew a well-deserved collective breath. The awards ceremonies concluded the festivities and the players and attendees were headed back to their hometowns filled with a great deal of memories and newfound friendships that will last a lifetime.

Individual Tournament Awards

All-Stars. Zev Ben Ami, DRS; Yaakov Bendayan, Yeshivat Or Chaim; Nathan Bibi, Hillel; Morris Esformes, RASG; Bryant Feintuch, Weinbaum; Yoni Gelb, Maimonides; Sam Kalnitz, Atlanta Jewish Academy; Jordan King, Beth Tefiloh; Alex Klein, MTA; Andrew Korman, Akiva; Andrew Langer, Frisch; Gideon Neumann, Ida Crown; Natan Oliff, Ida Crown Jewish; Jonah Rosenthal, Fuchs Mizrachi; Max Rosner, HAFTR; Mayer Scharlat, Frisch; Moshe Sebbag, HA Montreal; Motti Zilberstien, YULA.

Tier IV MVP. Sender Eizen, Akiva

Tier III  MVP. Jacob Danis, Weinbaum

Tier II MVP. Kevin Bokor, Ida Crown

2nd Team All-Tournament. Chad Masin, HA Miami; Joey Levy, Posnack Jewish Day; Eitan Halpert, Shalhevet; Kevin Bokor, Ida Crown; Dovid Stock, Valley Torah

1st Team All-Tournament. Gabriel Leifer, DRS; Daniel Tzion, YULA; Abie Perlow, HAFTR; Jonathan Greenberg, HAFTR; Benni Tuchman, Frisch

Tournament MVP. Tyler Hod, Frisch

MVP All-Star Day 2015

This Sunday, March 29, MVP Boys Basketball will host its 7th Annual Boys All-Star Day. This year, the event will be taking place at S.A.R. High School in Riverdale. The daylong program features five all-star games: 6th grade at 11:00; 7th grade at 12:30; 8th grade at 2:00, high-school junior varsity at 3:30, and high-school varsity at 5:00. The all-star rosters comprise players from yeshivas throughout the New York/New Jersey metro area as selected by their respective coaches.

Each participant will receive MVP All-Star Day T‑shirts, and the teams will be coached by coaches from the Yeshiva League. At halftime of each game, there will be the always-exciting MVP 3-Point Shootout, which features “specialists” as selected by their respective coaches. Each 3-point champion will receive a trophy, and two MVPs from each all-star game (one from each team) will be awarded MVP trophies as well.

The games are attended by many spectators including family, friends, and teammates. Admission is free, so come spend a great day of basketball watching the all-stars. Stay tuned for a full recap of MVP All-Star Day 2015. For more information, please contact me. v

Judah Rhine, who has been coaching youth basketball for more than 35 years, is co-director of MVP Boys Basketball Camp and MVP Girls Basketball Camp and co‑commissioner of the National Council of Young Israel basketball league. He can be reached at mvp4boys@gmail.com or mvp4girls@gmail.com.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here