West Coast faces Shua Strong in Teir 2 Championship.
Quarterfinals weekend was packed in the Red & Doctor Murrays Israel Basketball League, with some close games and fantastic finishes.
The Elite 8 started with the #3 seed, TC, playing the sixth-seeded Tzionim. When these teams had met in the regular season, Tzionim had come away with the win, so an upset loomed large. In this game, it was a back and forth first half, with TC clinging to a narrow 32-29 lead at the intermission. The 2nd half was a different story. TC’s defensive game was the best in league history, holding the powerhouse Tzionim to just 6 points! Thanks to their incredible defense, TC came away with the 50-35 victory, advancing to the semifinals, where the #2 seed Shalhevet Firehawks await.
Top-seeded Mr. Bagel also faced a familiar foe, the #8 Pittsburgh Panda Bears. In their regular-season encounter, Mr. Bagel had one of their closest games of the year, only pulling away in the waning seconds. The Panda Bears were confident they could take the rematch, and came out playing excellent, unselfish basketball. Constant ball movement created high-percentage shots, which the Pandas knocked down with efficiency, staking them to an early 10 point lead. Mr. Bagel made some defensive adjustemnts, and started to make inroads into the lead, pulling to within 6 at halftime.
Then, in the the 2nd frame, Mr. Bagel's Josh “The Toaster” Dukas caught fire from the 3 point line. Behind his barrage of 3’s (17 points, 5-6 from beyond the arc), Mr. Bagel came charging back, building a comfortable lead by midway through the half, and cruising to a 65-51 victory.
The 4 vs. 5 playoff matchup is always the tightest on paper, and the LA Ballers vs. Chaburah tilt lived up to the billing. The game was a seesaw battle thoughout, as each side made one clutch play after another, to keep their team in the game. In the final 10 minutes, LA Ballers looked to have finally pulled away, building a 12 point lead - and still, Chaburah wouldn't go down without a fight, as Abie Perlow made big defensive plays, and two big "and-1's" on the offensive end, to bring his team back within two scores. With under a minute left and the game on the line, LA Ballers came together and made repeated defensive stands of their own, to win 50-45. LA Ballers will face Mr. Bagel in the Semifinals.
In the Teir 2 semifinals, top seeded Shua Strong played Team Supreme. Team Supreme came out hot and was in control of the game going into the half. In the second half, Shua Strong’s Chaim Kriger single handedly brought his team back into the game, scoring all the points in a 10-0 run, on his own!
With clutch foul shooting down the stretch, Shua Strong was able to outlast Team Supreme, winning by a score of 52-46, to advance to the Tier 2 championship.
The other semifinal featured #2 West Coast vs #3 Ashreinu Mountain Goats. Ashreinu connected on their first 5 attempts while playing shut-down D, and went into the half up by 8. West Coast's Max Lebowitz came out hot in the 2nd half, hitting three treys in the first 5 minutes. Clutch foul shooting and opportune take-aways down the stretch by West Coast, enabled them to pull out with the victory, 47-42, setting up the championship game match-up against Shua Strong.
TC and Tzionim defeated the newcomers Ashreinu 44-23 and 48-41 respectively, while LA Ballers, led by Simcha Menlo (27 points), defeated Imrei 56-43, each virtually clinching a playoff berth.
Mr. Bagel moved into the pole position, with resilient wins in two tough back to back games. The first was against Pittsburgh’s Panda Bears. The Panda Bears came out strong and started the game on a 10-0 run, and led by 13 at the half. The 2nd half was a different story as Mr. Bagel, led by Avishai Alge and Yisroel Feld, came out strong and was able to outscored the Panda Bears by 19 points to secure the victory 61-55.
Mr. Bagel's next opponent was the super talented Shalhevet Firehawks. The game opened with Dovie Marcus draining back to back 3’s for Bagels, but with some quick moves and great shooting by Eitan Halpert, the Firehawks stormed back into the game and the score was tied at half. Second half was a seesaw battle with no team able to pull ahead. With 10 seconds left and the game tied, the Firehawks had a chance to put down Mr. Bagel, but were unable to convert on the buzzer beater. In OT, right off the tip, Yisroel Feld pulled up a couple of feet behind the 3 point arc, and nailed the shot. Thanks to a big basket by Jake “The Tank” Sternberg, and clutch free throw shhoting down the stretch, Mr. Bagel was able to outlast the Firehawks and win in OT 62-55, bringing their record to 5-1.
In other news, Shua Strong defeated West Coast 67-60, to keep both teams on the playoff bubble, heading into the crucial final week.
With every win crucial in the playoff race, the Shalhevet Firehawks took on Imrei Bina, with a chance to move within half a game of first place. The Firehawks started on full throttle, jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, and never looked back, en route to a 60-42 victory, behind Eitan Halperts' 24 points.
In a key battle for a playoff spot, the Pittsburgh Panda Bears defeated West Coast, leaving both teams precisely "on the bubble" for a post-season spot, heading into the home stretch of the regular season. The Panda Bears came out firing and looked to be cruising to an easy win, with a 30-12 lead at the half. After the intermission however, West Coast mounted a furious rally, behind great shooting from Max Lebowitz and Caleb Milobsky, and West Coast came all the way back within a single point, with under 5 minutes remaining. The precariously positioned Pandas proved positively purposeful, pulling away powerd by Sam Fishman’s pinpoint accuracy (20 points, 9 for 12 from the field, 2 for 2 from the foul line), for a 61-46 payoff.
In other important games with post-season implications, Mr. Bagel and LA Ballers each moved up into a tie for third place in the tight playoff race, as Mr. Bagel defeated Team Supreme 59-32, and LA Ballers triumphed over The Chaburah 50-42.
The marquee matchup of the week in the Red & Doctor Murray's Israel Basketball League, Imrei vs. Tzionim, was a defensive battle the whole way through. At halftime the teams were locked in at 15-13, with Tzionim in the lead. Both teams continued to make their opponents work for every point in the second half, and in waning seconds of regulation, with Tzionim down by 2, Moshe Beitler hit a floater to send the game into overtime.
In OT it was more of the same, with each team's defense allowing absolutely no open looks - but with under a minute left, Eli Guwirtz got off a jump shot from the left elbow of the foul line, nailing it to give Imrei a hard-earned 28-26 win in OT.
The Black Knights continued their dominance as they played the under-manned Shalhevet Firehawks, leading from tip-off till the final whistle, and defeating the Firehawks 58-37.
The Pittsburgh Panda Bears moved to 2-0 on the season, by defeating Shua Strong. The Panda Bears built themselves a 20 point lead, and despite a rally by Shua Strong, the Pandas were able to hold them off for a 59-49 victory.
West Coast remained undefeated as each player scored double digits, running away from Mark Fertel by a 69-28 score.
The final game of the weekend was a thriller between newcomers Mr. Bagel and the returning LA Ballers. LA have their eyes on the championship, which barely eluded them last year. The game was fast-paced throughout, with the teams trading baskets and ach making small runs, and LA Ballers led 35-30 at the intermission. The pace didn't slow down in the second half, as the teams continued their nip-and-tuck battle. Then, with Mr. Bagel down 2 and less than 15 seconds left in the game, Yisroel Feld (32 pts, 8 reb, 7 assists) stole the ball and scored, to tie the game at 65. LA’s Daniel Tzion (36 pts), who had fueled LA's offense, got off a potential game-winner, but the ball biunced off the rim, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra frame, LA Ballers had a quick and-one to take a 3 point lead, but on the other end the Bagels' Dovie Marcus answered with an and-one of his own, tying the game. After some defensive stops, Feld drew a foul and hit one shot to take a 1 point lead. Mr. Bagel’s came up with a huge defensive stop, and on the offensive end, with the shot clock running down, Feld dribbled between two defenders, nearly lost the ball, and somehow fired a behind-the-back pass to a cutting Marcus, who laid it in to give Mr. Bagel a 3 point lead. A final stop and 2 foul shots iced the game for Mr. Bagel, 73-68.
“RED AND DR. MURRAY’S” ISRAEL BASKETBALL League Tips off :
TZIONIM, IMREI, FIRE HAWKS, WIN OPENERS
Opening night saw the veteran Tzionim take on the newcomers, Shua Strong.
The Tzionim came out in their typical 3-2 defense, and despite fantastic shooting from Shua Strong's Albert Waxman (16 pts, 5 reb), the Tzionim were able to limit Shua Strong's scoring, winning the season premier 60- 41. Tzionim were led by Ephraim and Moshe Weider, who combined for over 30 points.
In the second game, Toras Chaims Black Knights made a big statement to the league, as they defeated Fertel 71-43, on hot shooting from Ikey Cohen (20 pts) and the unstoppable inside play of Shmuel Sauer. Fertel was led by Jeffery Owen (12 pts).'
The final game of opening night was Imrei vs. The Chaburah. Despite the late hour, Imrei's defensive game was phenomenal, locking down the 38-17 victory.
Friday saw 4 new teams join the League. The first game was the Shalhevet Firehawks vs. the Pittsburgh's Panda Bears, and it was a close affair the whole way. Behind the 19 points and 6 rebounds of Shalhevets Eitan Halpert, and clutch foul shooting down the line, the Firehawks were able to win the nail-biter over the Panda Bears 43-39. Pittsburgh was led by Sammy Fishman with 15 points.
The final Friday game was between West Coast and Team Supreme. West coast came out firing and never looked back, as they defeated Team Supreme 67-28. West Coast's Max Lebowitz had an incredible game and finished with 27 pts, 16 reb, and 7 assists!
The LA Ballers finished their perfect regular season with a 45-35 victory over Ashreinu. The Tzionim faced ZC’s Lakers which came down to the wire. With some clutch foul shooting by ZC’s Lakers, they were able to hold off the Tzionim with a 32-31 victory. In other games, Chiraq defeated Lochamim to secure a place in Tier 1.
Shore Heart Group defeated the Trumanaires to secure themselves the #2 seed with a 67-58 victory. The Trumanaires, down by 7 at half, mounted a comeback that almost ended in a victory but clutch shooting by Jacob Dauer and Gabe Leifer helped propel Shore Heart Group to the win. The Trumanaires will face ZC’s Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Ashreinu played Levinger Magic and squeezed out a victory in OT 63-61, while Ohr Chaim secured the top seed in tier 2 by defeating Rocky Balboa 53-44. Rova Juice secured the #3 slot in Tier 1 by defeating Marhaba Beaches 74-55, while the Thunderhawks also defeated Marhaba Beaches 66-63 to sneak into the 8th seed of Tier 1.
TRUMANAIRES, LA BALLERS, AND SHORE HEART GROUP LEAD THE PACK
As teams head into the final week of the Red & Doctor Murray Israel Basketball league, the playoff picture has taken shape. With the top eight teams making the Tier One Playoffs, three juggernauts lead the field: Trumanaires, L.A. Ballers and Shore Heart.
LA Ballers remain undefeated, and if they keep it up through the playoffs they'll have a perfect season, and take home the Red Auerbach Championship Trophy. But it'll be easier said than done, as the Trumanaires, with legend Yisrael Feld, and Shore Heart Group, behind Gabe Leifer, have each fought hard to stay at the top, just one win behind in the standings.
With one more game remaining in the regular season, the seeding within Tier 1 are completely up in the air, as three challengers, Tzionim, Rova Juice and ZC’s Lakers, could vault into the top 3 seeds.
And no fewer than five more teams are vying this weekend for the final three tickets to the big dance: Chiraq, Ashreinu, Ohr Chaim, Lochamim and Thunderhawks.
The Tier 2 AFI Cup will consist of the remaining 7 teams, with the top team in Tier 2 getting a bye the first round.