The battle of the two most prolific coaches in the FM Home Loans IBL was taken by Sharsheret Shaalvim to win the Tier I trophy. Ashreinu Holy Bagels pushed the pace to win Tier II.
Sharsheret Shaalvim 46, Lobos 36
Less than a week after upsetting top-seeded TC, Sharsheret Shaalvim wasn’t ready to have their season end against the red-hot Lobos, who were coming off an upset victory of their own over Shraga in the quarterfinals.
Lobos got off to a good start, with big man Shuli Katz scoring often inside off of dump-offs and offensive rebounds. Star guard Elisha Rudman got into early foul trouble but stayed in the game, his team realizing they needed him on the floor for any chance of getting to the championship. But Sharsheret Shaalvim, led by Coach Jordan Landes, was well-aware of Rudman’s dilemma, and made it a point to attack. This also led to foul trouble for Katz, who fouled out with five minutes remaining.
Shaalvim’s Stevie Paul, as has so often been the case this season, took over down the stretch, using his adept inside-outside skill package to produce points on each crucial possession and ensure Shaalvim a berth in the Tier I championship.
A. Rafi & Tommy’s 56, Cross River Mooseheads 50
In what must have been the loudest environment of any game to this point in the season, the Mooseheads, the only of the top-4 seeds remaining, tried to get off to a hot start. But Coach Eli Benzaquen of AR&T drew up the perfect game plan to take the Mooseheads off their game.
AR&T came out in a 3-2 zone, and it made the Mooseheads uncomfortable all night. For a team that is led by arguably the steadiest point guard in the league, Shragi Peretz, the Mooseheads gave the ball away early and often. Nethanel Assayag, a long forward for AR&T, played the point of that 3-2, and had quite a few deflections which led to said turnovers. Assayag was on fire on the offensive end as well, and he and star guard Adam Motovich combined to build a comfortable lead for the entirety of the game.
Cross River’s Yosef Rudansky came off the bench and sparked a dormant offense by hitting four 3-pointers. But Adam Motovich would not let the Mooseheads back in the game, making nearly every free throw and finishing with over half of A. Rafi and Tommy’s points. His 30 points set up a final between the two most prolific coaches in the league.
FM Home Loans Championship
Sharsheret Shaalvim 54, A. Rafi & Tommy’s 44
In yet another rowdy and energetic environment, Sharsheret Shaalvim got off to a slow start in the championship game. The offense was slow to get going but led by Noah Pomerance’s excellent two-way play, Shaalvim was able to grind back from an early deficit en route to the Tier I title.
This was a battle of two teams led by prolific coaches: Jordan Landes for Sharsheret Shaalvim, Eli Benzaquen for A. Rafi & Tommy’s. Coach Landes drew up a defensive game plan focused on shutting down AR&T star Adam Motovich, and that task was placed largely on guard Noah Pomerance, who also performed on the offensive end. His efforts netted him the championship game MVP trophy.
Sharsheret Shaalvim started the season with a loss (ironically, to the AR&T team), then won the next four. They closed the regular season with a pair of losses, but Coach Landes was able to rally his team just in time for the postseason, earning a #8 seed in Tier I. Following a one-point win over Team Piaceczna’s in Round 1, Shaalvim pulled off a huge upset with a win over #1 TC in the quarterfinals. They then put away Lobos to earn a spot in the championship.
“We really came out with a championship mindset. I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Coach Landes told me. “We had a motto throughout the playoffs - Attack and Be Dangerous! Despite obstacles this team never gave up and showed out. It’s been a pleasure playing great basketball in the State of Israel and representing Yeshivat Sha’alvim.”
A. Rafi & Tommy’s had an unforgettable season as well. After beating Sharsheret Shaalvim in the season’s opening game, they accumulated a 4-3 regular season record, earning them the #6 seed in Tier I. After dispatching Power Mishna in the playoff’s opening round, AR&T pulled off back-to-back upsets, defeating #3 Sy Savages in the quarters then #2 Cross River Mooseheads in the semis.
“We played well in the 1st half, we just couldn’t hold it up in the 2nd half,” AR&T Coach Benzaquen told me. “They really had a well-planned-out game, defensively they played excellent, and they ended up finishing stronger than we did.”
Tier II - Championship
Ashreinu Holy Bagels 64, Rap City 39
In a title game matchup between the top two seeds, the second-seeded Ashreinu Holy Bagels shocked top-seeded Rap City in what ended up being a blowout. Holy Bagels’ Jack Levine and Dovid Oratz pushed the tempo and kept running all night. A 15-point halftime lead ended in a 25-point championship victory.