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Championship Monday Panel Picks

Standings Update: YS: 23-4 AS: 21-4 MA: 19-8 AP: 20-7 OG: 20-4

Tier III Championship: #15 Kohelet Kings vs #17 Cooper Macs

Yosef Silver: Kohelet has made it here after impressing throughout the tournament despite a tough road. They put up an admirable fight against YULA who will be competing for their own championship later in the day. A tough draw in the Tier II qualifiers had them losing to HA Montreal before a dominant win vs Ohr HaTorah in the Tier III semis. Cooper is coming off of a wild comeback, ending in a buzzerbeater from guard Benny Freiden. Ultimately, I see Kohelet’s Benjamini, Weiner, and Kahlon overwhelming Cooper’s trio of Vanderwalde, Kampf, and Freiden. I think Kohelet wins this one comfortably and are crowned Tier III champs after falling short in last year’s final. Kohelet 51-38.

Ari Schopf: Cooper had a tremendous come from behind win against Kushner capped off by a game winning buzzer beater from Benny Friedan. Unfortunately their luck will run out against Kohelet. Kohelet has played some nice basketball the last few days and I think they take care of business in this game. Kohelet 58-45

Marvin Azrak:  The Mactatsic Miracle continues. Cooper wins 53-47 in dramatic fashion. Nothing to lose with that pick as my bracketology has already been defeated by Yosef Silver.

Akiva Poppers: A great moment and step for Cooper in the right direction as they improve on last year’s performance by making it to the championship game. I do think the Kings are just a bit better though and their experience will come in key here. Kohelet 57-45.

Oren Glickman: Thank you Benny Freiden for giving us probably the biggest Sarachek 2024 memory this weekend. People will remember that play for a while. Cooper pulled off the extraordinary to come back on Kushner late after their disappointing choke job against MTA. These Macs have some building blocks for the future and should be optimistic. Kohelet find themselves back in the Tier III final for the second time in a row after falling short to JEC last year. The Kings should get it done here in comfortable fashion. Kohelet 40 Cooper 27

The top-seeded, 38-2 MDY Warriors will look to complete their historic season, and win their 25th straight game, proving they're the best team in the country against #2 YULA in the Sarachek Tier I finals on Monday. (Photo Credit: MacsLive)

Tier II Championship: #9 HAFTR Hawks vs #13 DRS Wildcats

YS: The battle of THE Five Towns (emphasis on the “the”). As a 5T local, I’m excited to see who emerges victorious when it is all said and done. HAFTR has rebounded nicely after a tough loss to Maimo in the opener with impressive wins over HA Montreal and Fuchs Mizrahi. They have been getting excellent play from Levy and Siri, while Freundlich has emerged as an elite three point shooter. DRS has been on an extraordinary run, going from the play-in game vs Frisch to the Tier II finals. Despite playing five games in five days, DRS hasn’t slowed down one bit, being powered by their high tempo offense and a tough match zone defense. This should be one for the ages, but I’m just not sold on HAFTR. Their offense has been a bit awkward since the return of Peter Drukker. The Hawks want to play him due to his dominant paint presence, but the offense feels lackluster and forced when he is on the floor. He also hurts their transition defense, something which will have to be on point vs DRS. However, without Drukker, I wonder how HAFTR will be able to defend DRS in the paint and contend on the glass. I think HAFTR’s veteran guards will give DRS some issues, but the Wildcats claw their way to the Tier II chip as Coach Moshe Cohen wins the non-existent Coach of the Tournament Award. DRS 54-48.

AS: DRS pulled off another impressive win against Valley Torah to advance to the Tier II championship game. They have impressed me all tournament long and I am not longer doubting them. HAFTR is an excellent team, but at this point I have to pick the team that is playing the best basketball and that is the DRS Wildcats. This will be a close game and DRS has shown the ability to pull out close wins during this Sarachek. They’ll do it once again to secure a Tier II title. 

DRS 53-49.

MA: Battle of Central Avenue for the Tier II title, and I'm taking the underdog. I've doubted DRS too much in this tournament and they've proved me wrong. They're the first Sarachek team to play six games in six days and look unphased. They'll surprisingly trouble Drukker inside. DRS wins 55-50.

AP: The last time these two met, HAFTR smacked the Wildcats in a regular season MYHSAL game, which was game of the week on the Yeshiva League Pass Tip Off Podcast, in which I incorrectly selected DRS. This is the Wildcats third consecutive championship game appearance—they lost Tier I in 2022 and Tier II in 2023. My gut said to pick HAFTR here, but after thinking about it further, I’m actually going to pick the upset. DRS looks totally unaffected by the fact that they have to play six games in six days. They are a tough team despite their limited talent and shooting ability. HAFTR is, no doubt about it, the more talented team. My biggest reason to pick HAFTR is Drukker. He is a beast inside, with great footwork and passing ability despite his limited ability, and the Hawks should be able to pick apart the DRS matchup zone through him. In fact, The big man had 23 points and 16 rebounds in the November matchup. This time, however, will be different. Off of injury, Drukker is no longer a focal point for HAFTR despite his inside prowess. The Hawks guard-centric approach does not bode well for success here. Third time’s the charm. DRS gets their championship. Wildcats win, 51-49.

OG: A Five Towns battle for Tier II glory. These are two schools that expect to battle for Tier I every year. I must say it’s very interesting to see them in the second to last game of Sarachek. HAFTR has responded nicely since their first round loss to Maimo. DRS really took advantage in each game they’ve played in since they were forced to play in the play in game. The regular season matchup between these teams saw HAFTR dominate at the Hawks Nest. I think Coach Moshe Cohen deserves so much credit for how he’s coached and approached the weekend. They haven’t shown any ounce of fatigue. I am going to pick the Wildcats over the Hawks here. From going to the play in game to finishing with a Tier II crown is mighty impressive in my opinion. DRS 47 HAFTR 41 

Tier I Championship: #1 Magen David Warriors vs #2 YULA Panthers

YS: Well this is for all the marbles. After two shaky performances in their opening games vs Kohelet and Ida Crown, the Panthers showed why they were ranked #2 with a masterful performance in their win against Flatbush. YULA was able to contain Beni Keda inside defensively, while Gabbay and Rosenblatt starred for YULA’s offense. Magen, meanwhile, has stormed their way through their opponents this tournament, dominating MTA and Maimo before breezing by TABC in the Tier I semis. This Magen team is on a total heater, having won 29 in a row with an overall record of 37-2 on the season. While I think the balanced YULA squad matches up very well with these Warriors, I have yet to see any glitches in the system for Magen. YULA will have to play an almost perfect game to end the Warriors’ dominant run. Based on the collective performances over the tournament, I’m not going to rely on that. This will be a back and forth game, with the Magen David Warriors being crowned champions. Smeke, Sardar, Haber, and Magen’s other seniors walk out on top as the Sarachek trophy stays home on the east coast for the first time since 2017. Magen David 55-51.

AS: YULA played like the number 2 seed in this tournament when it beat Flatbush in the semifinals. YULA set the tone from the start of the game and never lost the lead. Magen David is on a run of pure dominance, beating every team they have faced by double digits. Magen David has proven to be the best team in this tournament and they will cement that in this tier I championship game. Smeke, Chabbot, and Sardar are all top tier players and YULA will not be able to contain all 3 of them. Magen David wins the title.  Magen David 56-47

MA: Magen David is coming into this game with all the hype and expectation on their side. They've been dominating all season, and it's no surprise they're the favorites. But let's not count out YULA just yet. They've shown they can hang with the best, especially after that impressive win against Flatbush. If they can bring that same energy and execution to the championship game, they might just pull off a surprise victory. Still, Magen David's depth and experience could give them the edge they need to clinch the title. Magen David 52- YULA 48

AP: I’ve incorrectly doubted YULA so much the last two years that Rosenblatt and co. are surely ecstatic to see me do it again. Man, what a performance that was against Flatbush. The Panthers (surprisingly) owned the paint against the Keda-led Falcons. YULA shot 80% from 2 on Sunday. When they broke the Flatbush press, they scored pretty much every time. Crucially though, it was a phenomenal first quarter of tremendous execution which forced Flatbush into play-from-behind mode. Thus, we once again find an LA team in the championship game. Meanwhile, Magen David is looking to become the first MYHSAL team to win it all since 2017. The Warriors have the full package. They’re so talented, have so many options, play so well together, are very fundamental, and understand the game as a whole very well. They’ve also been playing together for an extremely long time. Ultimately, as impressed as I was with YULA and as bad as the Panthers continue to make me look, I will doubt them here—not because of themselves, but because of MDY. Note: the winner will most likely be the team which attempts fewer three pointers. Anyways, come 4pm, Magen David will complete an incredible season and reign supreme over all of Jewish hoops. Warriors 61, Panthers 52.

OG: Battle of Brooklyn Part 6 is put on ice. YULA finally showed the quality of a top 2 seed and executed vs. Flatbush to preserve the traditional ‘LA vs. NY championship game.’ Magen David will look to add one last trophy to their already full case (they already have 4 which includes the Yeshiva League ship). There’s no doubt Magen are favorites here but if YULA display the play they exemplified against Flatbush, I give them a real chance here. Jack Haber is going to be the X factor for the Warriors. Magen’s only two losses all year were in games when Haber was declared out. While he did a nice job containing Kinderlehrer in the semifinals, YULA has way more taller options than just one particular player down low. I didn’t think YULA would get to the championship Monday. But they are here now and I will pick them to take down the Goliath that is Magen David. The Panthers add yet another Sarachek championship to their belt. YULA 55 Magen David 49 

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