One more go at it for the panel. It’s Championship Monday!
Ari Schopf (AS): The duo of Eli Wallace and Daniel Benjamini will come through for the Kings in this championship game. The JEC Thunder will struggle getting out to contest those threes and Wallace and Benjamini will combine for 45 points and take the Tier III title. Kohelet by 6.
Akiva Poppers (AP): JEC’s length will bother Eli Wallace a bit. JEC is far deeper and a bit more talented. With each team playing their fourth game in four days, that depth will be a major factor here. JEC by 8.
Oren Glickman (OG): We got denied of an all Philly final and an all Yeshiva League final which would have made for a good storyline after MTA defeated JEC on a buzzer beater in the MSAC way earlier in the season. The Kohelet Kings can thank Eli Wallace for why they’ll be playing in the MSAC on Championship Monday. The man was on a mission and hit key shot after key shot. JEC put away Mesivta in the second half after a slow start to their semifinal game. Mesivta is considered a stronger team than Kohelet. The Thunder should come out on top here by 10 or more.
AS: DRS was excellent defensively against Berman and with the dominant play of Issac Solomon and Ari Saffra, they earned a spot in the Tier 2 championship. Aside from a tough fourth quarter in the Tier 1 qualifier against North Shore, Fuchs Mizrachi has dominated this tournament. They are coming off a 53-32 over TABC that saw a very balanced scoring attack. DRS will take away Blau’s inside scoring, but the stellar shooting from the rest of the Mayhem will propel them to a win. Mayhem by 11.
AP: I said yesterday that, taking into account injuries, Mizrachi was the best team left in Tier II. Being up 44-14 against TABC after 3 quarters did not make me change my mind. Fuchs is legit—and if a few more of their shots fell on Thursday, they would have knocked off the Yeshiva League Champions. DRS’ zone is better than TABC’s, but the Mayhem will still be able to score at a decent rate. DRS is really limited—besides for Solomon and Saffra, they don’t have too many options to go to, and they won’t be able to get much penetration against Fuchs, meaning their primary source of offense will be pull-up jumpers. I think DRS will hang tight, but Mizrachi will win by 7.
OG: This may actually be the closest contest of the three championship games on Monday. This Fuchs Mizrachi team is very very good and it was a mistake for me to pick against them on Big Sunday. They dominated and outclassed TABC in every single facet of the game. While DRS are better and will be a tougher go for Fuchs than TABC, there’s a big vulnerability for the Wildcats. Shuey Bernstein is still out which means this can be a game where Blau dominates with an easy double double. I think this game gets determined in the final few minutes. I’ll take the Mayhem by 5.
AS: NY vs LA. SAR has looked like the best team in this tournament. The Sting executed a brilliant game plan to get the win against the #1 seeded Shalhevet Firehawks. Akiva Schanzer has led the way for the Sting, but not without plenty of help from his supporting cast. I am certain SAR will be ready to play this game and Coach Halpert will have an excellent game plan to counter the Wolfpack offense. Despite all of this, Valley Torah is just too good and too disciplined. They can score in a hurry and when their shots are not falling, their defense can keep them in the game. I see the Sting starting the game with the lead in the first quarter with Valley Torah retaking the lead at the half. SAR will take another lead in the fourth quarter, but clutch baskets from Johnny Dan and Ethan List will put the Valley Torah Wolfpack back on top of the Sarachek world. Wolfpack 53, Sting 48. Noam Mayouhas wins tournament MVP.
AP: This one is for all of the marbles. SAR is having so much fun right now, playing so loose. As predicted, the paint was a warzone in the Valley Torah-YULA game, and the game was played at the Panthers’ pace, yet the Wolfpack were able to survive and advance, with Dan hitting a couple of massive shots. In order for SAR to have a chance at winning, they will need to keep this game in the halfcourt. That is a tall task and doing so will wear out the Sting in a way they have never seen before. While SAR has made it this far without Berkowitz, not having him for this one will certainly hurt. Both teams have some really tough kids which is why I would be surprised if this turns into a blowout, but Valley Torah is clearly more talented and athletic. It’s just hard for me to see SAR’s shotmaking unaffected if they are able to keep VT in the halfcourt. SAR’s gameplan will require doing so—getting into a shootout is not a recipe for success. I see the game played to an SAR-esque score, but Valley will come out on top for the second year in a row. Wolfpack 49, Sting 41.
OG: I think the majority of people will be happy that we have the LA-NY final. Valley Torah didn’t dominate YULA at all. The Panthers gave it a good go and can hold their heads high. If not for the big time moments of Johny Dan, perhaps an upset could have happened. Meanwhile, it was a Sunday to remember for 5 seeds. San Diego St., Miami, and the SAR Sting all came out with victories to punch their tickets to the Final Four and Tier I Championship respectively. While I predicted the Sting to come out on top over Shalhevet, I must admit the Firehawks may have given Valley Torah a better championship contest. SAR can be proud of the tournament they have had after the disappointment of losing to North Shore in the YL semifinals. Benny Neuwirth has been beyond impressive. He uses his body well and has a very high basketball IQ. Akiva Schanzer is the backbone of this team which we’ve seen on numerous occasions, especially in the semifinal. I think whatever happens, it was a successful season for Rafi Halpert and co. SAR would love to shake off the demons of last year’s championship disaster at the MSAC. But I have to go with the players who have already had the experience of winning it all and will know how to win it all again. Back to back for the Wolfpack. Valley Torah 52 SAR 39 MVP Noam Mayouhas