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Champs! Macs Take Home Second Skyline Conference Title in 3 Years

On Sunday afternoon, the Purchase College Panthers visited the Max Stern Athletic Center to face off against the Macs in the Skyline Conference Championship. After a slow start, Yeshiva went on an 18-0 run, and held a 16-point halftime lead. The Panthers chipped away at the Macs advantage in the second period, but YU held on to win their second Skyline Championship in three seasons.

Purchase came out of the gate hot, and scored the first five points before Bar Alluf knocked down a trey. The Panthers then proceeded to go on a 6-0 run to earn an 11-3 lead before Coach Elliot Steinmetz called timeout with 16:52 left in the half. An Elijah Lott jumper continued Purchase’s early domination, as they were 6 for 8 from the field to start the game.

The Macs finally hit their stride offensively, and Ryan Turell found Gabe Leifer underneath the hoop for an easy basket. A Turell head-fake led to a reverse layup, his first points of the game; Simcha Halpert then got on the board with a transition bucket. Turell then went on an 8-0 personal run, hitting two three-pointers. Sandwiched between these treys, Dani Katz made an incredible spinning, falling, full-court pass to Ryan, who layed it in for two. Leifer scored two more to give the Macs a 19-13 lead, and Purchase called their second timeout with 10:40 on the clock.

An Ofek steal and layup capped off an incredible 18-0 Yeshiva run which spanned just over five minutes. Following a Purchase bucket, Turell started going to work against the Panthers zone defense, as he found soft spots and created open shots. Purchase attempted to counter the YU momentum by entering into a three-point contest with Eitan Halpert. Jorden Means and Maxx Miller hit triples which momentarily silenced the crowd, but Halpert responded to both with deep 3s. The Macs were up 11 with 5 ½ minutes remaining in the half.

Leifer began to rack up assists, as he found Ryan Turell for a short jumper, and located Dani Katz under the hoop for two more. Eitan Halpert continued his hot streak with another three, as the Macs were playing inside-out against the Purchase zone and getting numerous open looks. Turell continued his hot afternoon, as he hit another layup and three-ball. Simcha Halpert hit a three which was set up by Turell, who was collapsed upon by the Purchase defenders in the key. Another Sim trey closed out an incredible 20 minutes for the Macs, who led 55-39 at the intermission.

The second half was a see-saw battle, with neither team being able to establish much of any momentum, despite both the YU and Purchase fans getting extremely loud. Elijah Lott connected on his second incredible pass of the game to Jorge Perdomo, but the story during the back-and-forth play was Leifer. After a 12 rebound, 9 assist first half, Gabe slowly worked his way into triple-double territory, and a jumper with 13:35 to go gave him another incredible accomplishment in this historic season. After a beautiful Eitan Halpert finger roll lay in, Miller converted on the fast break, and the YU lead held strong at 16 with twelve minutes left in regulation.

A few possessions later, Leifer added to his impressive statline with a block on the defensive end and a bank-shot on the offensive end, extending the Macs’ advantage to a game-high 19. That’s when Purchase made their move, scoring 12 points compared to YU’s three in the next four and a half minutes. An Eitan Halpert jumper stymied the Panthers’ run, and Coach Steinmetz called timeout with 4:37 remaining in the game, holding on to a 77-65 lead.

The Panthers tried to get to within a couple of possessions by shooting threes, but could only get their close range attempts to fall. With two minutes on the clock, Purchase cut the Yeshiva lead to nine, but then Eitan shut the door with an and-one. Up 86-74 with 35 seconds remaining, the Panthers selected not to foul, effectively conceding the game. As the crowd broke into a Mishenichnas Adar chant, the clock ran out, and the fans stormed the court.

Gabe Leifer
Skyline Championship game MOP Gabe Leifer shows off his trophy with Captain Simcha Halpert.

Gabriel Leifer won the Skyline Championship game Most Outstanding Player Award, posting 16 points, 24 rebounds and 12 assists. Ryan Turell scored a game-high 29 points, while Dani Katz made numerous highlight-worthy plays and cleared out the paint for Gabe. Eitan Halpert dropped 19 points on 7-9 shooting. For the Panthers, Elijah Lott had a fantastic game, and with 20 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds, almost finished with a triple double of his own.

Teamwork makes the dream work

The Macs’ motion offense was the absolute difference in this game, as Yeshiva’s off-ball movement and screens, as well as selfless play, guided them to victory. Especially when Purchase was sitting in a zone, the Macs played inside-out, and then depending on how the Panthers helped to defend the ball handler, the YU players decided whether to kick out or shoot. The Macs’ quick cuts put them in great position to set up open shots, and Yeshiva was particularly excellent at making the extra pass when necessary. This allowed the Macs to put on a clinic in the first half, going 9-14 from downtown and shooting over 55% from the floor. Despite struggling to hit their attempts in the second period, the 16-point halftime lead was enough to hold off the Panthers from ever getting close to the Macs.

Postgame thoughts

Here are some awesome quotes from the stars of this game:

Dani Katz: “I literally can’t hear a thing. The atmosphere was ridiculous, that was something else. The fans were something else. Best atmosphere I’ve ever played in by far.”

Ofek Reef: “Crazy atmosphere. Coming in I was very nervous. I’ve never played in a crowd environment like this, so it was really nerve-wracking when I first got on the court.”

Ryan Turell: “Everyone on our team is unselfish. Gabe hit me in the high post every time he saw me. We were just finding the open guy.”

Gabe Leifer: “This victory feels amazing. I couldn’t have gotten the triple double without my teammates, they played a heck of a game.”

Simcha Halpert: “Right now we’re trying to celebrate today’s game, we’ll celebrate today and tomorrow. We’re not sure who we’re playing yet, but no matter who it is, we’re ready to play.”

Coach Steinmetz: “We got a bunch of dogs out here, just competed every single game, and we found a way to win. Same thing happened a couple of years ago, hot start by them, but our guys were calm and collective. I have no idea what we’re going to see [opponent-wise in the tournament], we’ll watch the selection show together as a team, and see where we end up.”

Tyler Hod: “Coach trusts us like crazy. We keep doing our thing and it works out well.”

The Macs winning streak is now at 27 games, the longest in DIII this season, and the Macs enter the NCAA Tournament with a better winning percentage than any of the other 63 schools. Yeshiva will learn who their first round opponent is when the bracket is revealed tomorrow at 12:30 PM. Stay tuned for more details, as MacsLive will be live streaming the selection show!

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