Toras Chaim 57, Cross River Mooseheads 55 (OT)
The game billed as the early favorite for “Game of the Year” did not disappoint, with Toras Chaim edging out rival Cross River Mooseheads, 57-55 in overtime.
Simcha Menlo of the Mooseheads led all scorers with 21 points, but his 3-point attempt for the win just rimmed out at the OT buzzer.
TC captain Shmuely Sauer did not score in the first half, but came out red-hot in the second, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Sauer did not miss a field goal attempt until his last-second heave from 3 fell just short at the end of regulation, ensuring the game went to overtime.
After trailing by seven at halftime, and as many as 12 in the second half, TC banked on strong defense and Sauer’s and Mordy Weissman’s aggressiveness to battle back. Weissman came up particularly clutch, making the tying bucket in regulation prior to what ended up as the winning layup in overtime. Weissman finished with 14 points.
TC is now the lone undefeated team, with Cross River joining a conglomerate of 1-loss teams.
Aliyah Glory 41, Invaders 40
On the other end of the spectrum, Aliyah Glory broke into the win column with a dramatic finish vs the Invaders. With the score tied at 40 and 3 seconds left, Aliyah Glory captain Ezra Guo inbounded the ball at half court to their star player Zimi Li. Zimi took 2 dribbles and shot the ball. The buzzer sounded, as did the refs whistle, Zimi was fouled. Zimi walked up to the free throw line and calmly hit his first free throw to give Aliyah Glory their first win of the season.
Falafel Ballers 52, Bad Boys 45
Bad Boys led 44-29 in the second half, but foul trouble and a lack of depth aided Falafel Ballers in an epic comeback. The Ballers closed the game on a 23-1 run, which included Bad Boys forward Dovi Adler fouling out with four minutes remaining and the Bad Boys clinging to a 45-40 lead, forcing the Bad Boys to finish the game shorthanded.
Shraga 66, Power Mishna 56
The final score is not fully indicative of how close this one was, with Power Mishna keeping the game within arm’s reach until the final minute. Shraga looks like a force, with the inside-outside combination of Max Leibowitz and Dov Marcus, and they are always looking to push the pace. Their 62 points per game leads the FM Home Loans IBL.
Team Piaceczna’s 55, Ashreinu Holy Bagels 45
Piaceczna’s got hot and stayed hot from outside, and hit clutch free throws down the stretch to secure their first victory of the season, against a very tough Ashreinu Holy Bagels team. Piaceczna’s has very good athleticism and are balanced between their frontcourt and backcourt. They are a team to keep an eye on following a slow start to the season.
Sharsheret Shaalvim 52, Pittsburgh Strong 28
Shaalvim got out to a 10-point halftime lead, and crushed Pittsburgh strong in the second half, outscoring their opponent 26-12 after the break. Sharsheret Shaalvim continues to look like a top-tier team and one of the favorites to take the FM Home Loans crown. Pittsburgh Strong is no slouch themselves and should be in a position to make the playoffs and perhaps make a run.
Gold Seals 52, Loketch Group 31
Gold Seals score from all over, combining long-range proficiency with dominance on the glass to cruise to an easy win. The Seals’ only loss to date was a single-digit defeat vs. undefeated TC, and are in the upper-tier when it comes to the league’s best.
River Cross Mooseheads 61, Rap City 36
After a very competitive first half, in which Rap City lefty Isaac Bartfield hit 3 triples, the Mooseheads were able to pull away, using their size to dominate the offensive glass. The Mooseheads are now one of two undefeated teams remaining (TC is the other). They have the look of a legitimate contender.
Bad Boys 33, Invaders 25
In an extreme defensive battle, Bad Boys scrapped their way to an 8-point victory. After a heartbreaking 1-point loss last week to The Loketch Group, Bad Boys even up to .500 with this win. Invaders are still looking to get in the win column.
TC 52, Gold Seals, 43
TC has looked like one of the better teams in the league en route to an undefeated record. Gold Seals is no pushover themselves, with this being their first loss of the season. The Seals hadn’t scored fewer than 56 points in either of their first two games, so TC’s defense deserves credit for holding their opponent well below their 58.5 point average.
Ashreinu Holy Bagels 46, Savages 43
In perhaps the most dramatic game of the weekend, Sy Savages came up just short, missing a halfcourt shot in the waning seconds, unable to remain among the undefeated teams. Ashreinu was without key players Jack Levine and Gabe Fisher, but were able to pull out the victory with timely shot-making and big defensive stops.
Pittsburgh Strong 45, The Loketch Group 33
Pittsburgh Strong started slow but rode really solid defense to improve to .500 on the season. Loketch Group has struggled to get things going offensively, exceeding 33 points scored in just one of four games so far.
Lobos 48, Falafel Ballers 29
After dropping their season opener to Shraga, the Lobos have quietly won 3 straight, each by at least 14 points. Elisha Rudman was very aggressive, dominating in the paint and on the boards. Falafel Ballers had run into some tough luck, losing their first 2 games by 5 points each before recording a victory last week, but they were simply outmatched in this contest.
Sharsheret Shaalvim 48, Team Piaseczna’s 39
Sharsheret Shaalvim got out to a sizeable lead, but Team Piaseczna’s, fueled by a passionate fanbase, roared back in the 2nd half to keep this one competitive. Shaalvim looks like a very formidable squad and legitimate title contender. They were led by the scoring of guard Jake Greenberg. Despite the loss, Piaseczna’s look like they will be a tough matchup for anyone in the FM Home Loans IBL.
A. Rafi and Tommys 54, Aliya Glory 25
The final game of the weekend saw a clinic put on by A. Rafi and Tommys, the only team to defeat aforementioned title contender Sharsheret Shaalvim. A. Rafi and Tommys forward Adam Motovich seemingly could not miss from deep, and Aliya Glory had no answer for him. Aliya Glory guard Ezra Guo used craftiness to penetrate the AR&T defense, but Aliya Glory couldn’t finish those looks, and struggled to stop the transition offense of AR&T.
FINAL FOUR: MR. BAGEL, TC, LA BALLERS, FIREHAWKSWEST COAST FACES SHUA STRONG IN TEIR 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
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.