On Tuesday, January 31, the senior members of the boys’ varsity basketball team played their final home game in the Hebrew Academy gymnasium against Scheck Hillel. As per tradition on senior night, Coach Berman addressed each departing senior and presented each of them with a commemorative team autographed basketball.
The speeches Coach Berman dedicated to each of the departing senior players-Gabe Apoj, Avi Stein, Shmuel Kahn, and Daniel Yerushalmi-described their dedication, the talent they offered, what they taught the younger players, and highlighted their sportsmanship. This years senior night was especially difficult for Berman.
“This one is really tough. They’ll be hard to say goodbye to,” said Berman.
This is especially true for Yerushalmi who has been playing under Coach Berman’s leadership since he was in the 8th grade, Coach Berman’s first year coaching at Hebrew Academy.
“I’ve watched him become a man,” Berman remarked when Yerushalmi was called up.
There were emotions all around, on the court with the team and in the stands, where parents and family watched their sons receive the honor.
The game started with both teams ready to meet their rivals. The first quarter ended in a draw at 17, and the Hillel Lions pulled ahead by 2 at halftime. The Hillel basketball squad rocketed ahead by 8 with 4 three pointers, but back to back threes from Yerushalmi and a buzzer beater layup by Ben Tal (11th) left the exciting face-off tied at 45 after 3 quarters. Halfway through the final quarter, Noah Schiff (11th) and Jack Esformes (11th) shot from downtown, putting the Warriors up by 6. They never looked back, sinking 11 of 13 free throws to put the game away. Tal finished with 27 points and 7 assists, while Schiff and Yerushalmi combined for 18 points and 12 assists.
The team and the big crowd shared the ups and downs of the game. When the Warriors were in the lead the crowd was cheered“Defense! Defense !” But when the Warriors were behind, the crowd was just as focused as the players on the court. In addition to the Warrior fans in the stand that night, the far side of the bleachers held the Scheck Hillel fans, and they made sure to make their presence heard whenever the Hillel players were up.
Both teams earned a healthy amount of fouls throughout the game, and both sides had players going down, as the teams’ rivalry began to seep into the game. As a result, many players on both sides were in heavy contact during heated plays. Adding to the tension, the Warriors faced their former teammate Solomon Rosenthal, who left Hebrew Academy this year for Hillel.
“He [Rosenthal] played good in the first half but in the second half we began to get in his head,” said Warrior Ezra Sultan (11th). “Even though he left our team, it doesn’t matter. We just wanted to beat him really badly.”
Although senior members of the team will move on, their legacy will continue in the younger players.
“The mantle will be passed,” said Berman. “Noah Schiff, Ben Tal, Jack Esformes, and Jacob Stein have to take the mantle, and that’s how the program continues.”