The #15 Yeshiva University Maccabees’ journey through the Skyline Conference Championships commenced on Tuesday night, as the Macs took on Merchant Marine. USMMA came into this matchup playing at the third slowest tempo in DIII, and the game lived up to its anticipated sluggishness. YU effectively allowed Merchant Marine to control the pace, and relied on their shooting prowess to provide the firepower to get them over the top. Fortunately, Simcha and Eitan Halpert combined to go 8-14 from behind the arc, and they carried the Macs to a 75-57 victory.
The game was extremely slow-paced from the start, and the Macs were their usual efficient selves. Gabriel Leifer scored seven straight points, as he exploited mismatches inside and knocked down a three-pointer. The Macs had built a 9-2 advantage four minutes in, but did nothing on their next five possessions. The Mariners proceeded to go on an 8-0 run, and took their first lead of the game.
Leifer ended YU’s 3 1/2 minute drought by putting back his own miss, bringing his scoring streak to nine in a row. Both offenses were extremely stagnant, and nearly halfway through the first, Yeshiva led 15-12. That’s when an outlet pass from Leifer to Ofek Reef resulted in a monster dunk, sending the gym into pandemonium.
Suddenly, the Macs’ offense woke up, as YU proceeded to make four of their next five shot attempts. Yet with just four minutes to go in the period, the Halpert brothers only had a combined two points, as the Macs were struggling to work the ball inside-out, and were seemingly trying to play hero ball. Fortunately, things changed instantaneously, as Eitan and Simcha scored 11 of the YU’s final 13 points of the half. In that stretch, the Mariners converted on just two field goals, and Yeshiva held a 38-24 lead at the break.
Simcha Halpert continued his dominance, and ignited the Macs’ offense to start the second period by drilling a three-pointer. Sim hit another triple to give the Macs a 49-31 lead when USMMA called timeout with 13:57 left on the clock.
The scales seemed to be tipped in Yeshiva’s favor, especially after an apparent YU turnover was tipped by Simcha to himself, and the sharpshooter sunk another three. Halpert clearly had the hot hand, as he nailed his third trey in a four-possession span. The two teams would then go back-and-forth, and with fewer than seven minutes remaining, Yeshiva held a 19-point advantage.
A Leifer three with five to go brought YU’s lead to 20 and effectively sealed the deal. Gabe notched two assists late, as well-executed passing through the Merchant Marine zone created an easy Reef layup and open Eitan Halpert triple. The Macs would ultimately win by a final score of 75-57, extending their winning streak to 25 games and, more importantly, securing a birth in the semifinals.
Simcha Halpert shot 6-11 from downtown, en route to a game-high 20 points. Eitan missed just one shot all night, as the spark plug off the bench finished with 10 points. Ofek’s speed and energy created fast break buckets which were otherwise hard to come by. Leifer tallied 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists. Junior Seth Barnes led the way for USMMA, as he scored 15 points and racked up four steals.
In the three other Skyline quarterfinal games, Purchase defeated Mount Saint Mary, Sarah Lawrence upset Manhattanville, and Farmingdale State knocked off Old Westbury. As a result, the Macs’ next opponent will be the defending-champion Rams. That matchup will take place in the Max Stern Athletic Center on Thursday night; tip off is set for 8 PM. MacsLive will of course have full coverage of that game for you, with our preview, live stream, recap, and highlights. In addition, the highlights and full broadcast from tonight’s game against USMMA will be posted to MacsLive.com in the morning, so keep an eye out for that!