The battle for top seed in Tier I came down to the final game of the regular season, when two first-place teams hashed it out. Lobos and A. Rafi & Tommy's put on perhaps the game of the year which came down to a buzzer-beater. And one team won its final three games to sneak into Tier I.
FM Home Loans Game of the Week
Lobos 54, A. Rafi & Tommy’s 53 (OT)
The final Game of the Week of the regular season just may turn out to be dubbed the game of the year. This game had all the drama one could ask for, and then some.
A. Rafi & Tommy’s used its energy and 15 first half points from Adam Motovich to build a lead as large as 10, but Lobos erased that and took its first lead early in the second half.
Though he had help, the star in this one was Lobos guard Elisha Rudman. Never one to seek the spotlight, Rudman was excellent in every possible regard. Always sought out his teammates for open looks, but would take advantage if he saw a good look himself. He was all over the glass on both ends, and effectively shut down Motovich in the second half with great defense.
The drama in the final minute was so intense that a detailed summary feels necessary.
With 33 seconds remaining in regulation, Moche Levy had a key steal and layup to give AR&T a four-point lead. With 14 seconds to go, Yitzy Kessler hit a 3 for his first points off the bench, filling in for big man Shuli Katz who had fouled out. After AR&T missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Lobos called timeout, then Chaim Hirsch had a clutch bucket while getting fouled and made the free throw to give Lobos a late two-point lead. AR&T then turned it over but Lobos couldn’t capitalize after being fouled, and Adam Motovich was fouled after grabbing the rebound with six seconds left. Motovich made the clutch free throws, but a lane violation was called after the second, so AR&T still trailed by one. Hirsch then made one of two free throws, and Nethanel Assayag of AR&T was fouled on the drive by Hirsch, who fouled out on the play, meaning Lobos would have to close shorthanded as they were down to four active players. Assayag coolly knocked down both to send the game to overtime.
In the extra period, AR&T was unable to take advantage of the “powerplay” to pull away. Kessler came up clutch again, making a late 3, and after Motovich made two more clutch free throws to regain the lead, the stage was set for Rudman to shine. With under three seconds to play, Rudman caught the ball on the perimeter, waited for Motovich to fly by, took two dribbles to his left, pump-faked to let another defender soar past him, and knocked down a shot at the buzzer to win it.
Lobos earn the #5 Tier I seed and will take on Bad Boys next weekend. A. Rafi & Tommy’s settle at #6, and will look to shake off this loss against red-hot Power Mishna in the opening round of Tier I.
TC 56, Gold Seals 42
Gold Seals’ losing streak continued as they were unable to get anything going offensively against TC’s stingy defense. On offense, TC found high-percentage shots inside the arc, cruising to an easy victory, securing the #1 overall seed along the way with Sy Savages’ loss to Cross River Mooseheads. TC will earn a first-round bye in Tier I, while Gold Seals will battle Pittsburgh Strong in the same tier next weekend.
Team Piaceczna’s 48, Rap City 42
Team Piaceczna’s came in riding a hot streak, and they need it to continue for any chance at a Tier I playoff berth. It did, and the young men from Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah went to work early and often, staving off a late Rap City push to hang on for the win. Rap City will have to settle as the top seed in Tier II.
Team Piaceczna’s 46, Pittsburgh Strong 41
In their 5th game in three weeks, Team Piaceczna’s gritted out a win by hitting key free throws down the stretch to secure a spot in Tier I. They won three of those five, including two must-wins this weekend. Team Piaceczna’s will face Sharsheret Shaalvim in a first-round Tier I matchup, who defeated them in their first game of the season. Pittsburgh Strong will take on Gold Seals.
Cross River Mooseheads 52, Sy Savages 28
The Mooseheads have quietly put together the most impressive resume in the league, as they finish the regular season with a single loss, to fellow one-loss team TC (by two points, in overtime). They dismantled what was previously regarded as the league’s hottest team, holding them to their season-low scoring total. Each of these teams will earn a Tier I first-round bye, with Cross River earning the #2 overall seed, Sy Savages #3.
Aliyah Glory 52, Ashreinu Holy Bagels 41
The role of spoiler was played by Aliyah Glory, as they utilized late season additions to stun the Holy Bagels and doom them to Tier II. Ashreinu will have a bye as the #2 seed in Tier II, while Aliyah Glory will take on The Loketch Group in a first round matchup.