Four minutes remained on the clock, and the Hebrew Academy Warriors were down by seven points against Heschel, the second seeded team at the annual Red Sarachek Basketball Tournament at Yeshiva University. As fans nervously watched the players on the court run, pass, block, and shoot, the crowd erupted as the Warriors fought back to close the gap. Scoring seven points, the Warriors tied with Heschel at 47 to 47 as the buzzer sounded. Students and other fans cheered wildly, and the intensity soared as the game went into overtime.
With two minutes left in overtime, the Warriors trailed by only one point. The Warriors and Heschel matched each other shot for shot, until Ben Tal (11th) cramped and had to leave the court. Ultimately, and despite a valiant effort by the entire team, the Warriors lost the game by one point.
“I felt like there was no way we could lose…until we lost,” said senior Shmuel Kahn.
Captain Danny Yerushalmi (12th) prepared the team for this type of scenario.
“What I preached to the whole team is about just being in the moment, about taking every moment and living it to the purest form in its own second and not trying to think about the end of the game and he beginning of the game,” Yerushalmi said. “Just being in every moment and trying to live every moment as if it’s your last moment to play, because in this case, it really was for me. It was an incredible effort, and I think the whole team did live in every moment, and we just came up one point short, which happens sometimes.” Yerushalmi added that “the team had a lot of mental toughness, and in the end, it was just they had more plays than we did, and it’s disappointing. It’s always disappointing to lose a game like that, but it was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and I won’t forget that game.”
Despite ultimately falling by one point in overtime to Heschel Friday in a heated game, the Warriors started their tournament run with a 55-46 victory over Cooper fueled by Ben Tal’s monster 33 point game, along with 13 points and 5 rebounds from fellow junior Noah Schiff.
With Tal benched for the remainder of the tournament, the mantle of leadership on the court fell to Jack Esformes (11th) against rival YHS on Sunday. The Storm blew out the Warriors 45-33 in a defensive battle.
The Warriors rebounded in their next game Monday, toppling the MTA Lions by a wide margin of 51-42 to end the tournament in seventh place with an admirable record of 2-2.
Reflecting on the close score of Friday’s nail-biter against Heschel, senior Gabriel Apoj said that “we can all take a lesson to always play like you’re down by one.” Jacob Stein (9th) added that “our game against Heschel was one of the most intense and best games I have ever played in. Coming back from a ten point lead and taking the game into overtime is everything a competitor can ask for.” Echoing his brother’s sentiment, senior Avi Stein stated: “That was probably the craziest game–and also the most important–that I’ve played in my career. It was the whole feel of the game, because there were a bunch of fans there on Friday. It was a great atmosphere to have a game in.”
Junior Jack Esformes noted that “when I came in, I knew it was going to be a tough game, because we were playing the Number Two Seed, and we were the Number Seven. We had been looking forward to this game the entire year, so I came in ready for a tough game, but as the game went along, I don’t think any of us really expected how the game would turn out. I think it just showed how resilient we are and how resilient we have been all year.”
Instead of allowing the Heschel loss to get them down, the Warriors used the experience as a tool to boost team morale.
“It carried over to the games by us wanting to win even more,” said Tal.
That mentality proved to be a successful strategy, as the Warriors went on to win their final game at the tournament. Battling back, the team ultimately finished with an impressive 7th place in Tier 1, an even higher ranking than last year’s Tier Two.
“It showed that we were very capable and that we shouldn’t have been ranked tenth” said Ezra Sultan (11th).
For seniors, Saracheck was their final high school tournament. But for younger players, Sarachek presented a new and thrilling experience.
“It’s not like at home. There’s a lot of people from other teams coming to a different place,” said sophomore Roye Ovaknin. “It’s very fun knowing you’re travelling to play basketball. There’s a lot of excitement.”
To sum up the tournament’s experience, junior Noah Schiff remarked: “Saracheck was extremely fun. The games at Saracheck have high intensity, more than regular season games due to the large crowds and a lot being on the line of every game. I personally like the very intense play where there is a lot of anxiety and intensity. All the games were very enjoyable and had great competition. The tournament was successful even though we came up short.”
By: Sara Fuchs (12th grade)