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Gameday Preview: Tier II Championship: (9) HAFTR vs (13) DRS

The Tier II Finals will see the #9 seeded HAFTR Hawks face off against the #13 seed DRS Yeshiva Wildcats. The Hawks are coming into the championship off a strong 57-42 win against #14 Fuchs Mizrachi, while the Wildcats are coming in off a less impressive 53-49 win against #6 Valley Torah.

The Hawks stormed right out of the gate against the Mayhem, taking the lead right from the start and pushing the score to 15-2 at the end of the first quarter. HAFTR stayed in control from there, and Fuchs never caught up. 

Kevin Levy will look to tame the Wildcats and lead the Hawks to a Tier II Championship. (Photo Credit: JJ Stein/ On IG)

DRS played a tense game against Valley Torah, falling behind early on but taking the lead shortly before halftime. From there, they managed to grow the lead to an impressive 16 points, before Valley managed to tie up the game in the fourth quarter. However, DRS managed to stop the comeback, finally ending the game with a four-point lead.

HAFTR has played up to expectations in this tournament, losing to the #8 Maimonides in the Tier I qualifier before beating #18 Hebrew Academy of Montreal and #14 Fuchs Mizrachi on their way to the Tier II finals. 

DRS, on the other hand, has been overperforming. They beat #13 Frisch in the qualifying match just to make it into the tournament in the first place. Although they then lost in the Tier I qualifier to #4 Shalhevet, they then went on to beat #20 Kushner and #12 Berman to make it to the Tier II semifinals, where they matched up against the #6 Valley Torah. Although it wasn’t the strongest win, they managed to take down the #6 seed, which is not only a higher seed than HAFTR, but also stronger than any win HAFTR has managed so far. While HAFTR is the higher seed going into the Tier II championship, if DRS can keep playing as well as they have all tournament, they could definitely manage an upset. 

HAFTR has several impressive players that can carry them to victory, with guards Noah Freundlich and Kevin Levy putting up 20 and 18 points, respectively, in their win against #18 HA Montreal, along with center Peter Drukker and guards Ness Salem and Sam Siri all hitting double digits in their loss vs #8 Maimonides. Any of those players could manage to bring HAFTR over the line in a championship game where they are coming in as the favorites.

DRS, on the other hand, will be relying on their standout player— guard Joe Aaron— to pull off an upset. Aaron has been having an impressive tournament, with 24 points in their win against #13 Frisch, as well as 15 points in their loss to #4 Shalhevet. The Wildcats will be relying on him to carry them to yet another victory in the Tier II Championship. Also, make sure to keep an eye on forward Aiden Buchbinder, who has been a force in this tournament. DRS’s championship hopes might come down to how well he performs in this game.

There’s a lot at stake in this game for both of these teams. For either team, winning means going back to the Five Towns with bragging rights, and a tournament win they can show proudly until Sarachek next year. But for DRS especially, it’s even bigger than that. They lost the Tier II championship last year to Fuchs Mizrachi as the #9 seed vs the #14 seed. For them, this is an opportunity to get the championship they could have gotten last year, and stop themselves from falling just short for a second year in a row.

This game is sure to be an exciting one. You won’t want to miss it!

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