The Panel is back with predictions for all the Semi-final matchups on Sunday.
TIER I SEMIFINALS
Ari Schopf: YULA has surprised many with its run to the final four of Tier 1. YULA has been excellent on the defensive end with its full court pressure giving North Shore all kinds of trouble in the second half of that game to secure the win. Valley Torah is a different beast right now. If YULA can find a way to slow this game down and force Valley Torah to score exclusively in the halfcourt, they have a chance to win. With that being said, I believe Valley Torah is too hot right now and will be able to win this one behind the duo of Dan and Mayouhas. Valley Torah by 8.
Akiva Poppers: Valley Torah is an absolute machine; they aren’t even close to being healthy yet they are still steamrolling their competition. If there is one team which can play with the Wolfpack right now, it is YULA, which is funny as they are a team I clearly overlooked coming into Sarachek. This is a game where not having Levi Banon is going to make a big difference. YULA is not a big team, but they are so tough and physical. Neither team will dominate the paint; it will be an absolute warzone. A lot of teams would let the physicality in such a big game get to them, but Valley is also tough as nails. YULA’s guards have the speed to play with Valley in the full court. This game will come down to whether Mayouhas and List are hitting shots; if they catch fire, this could turn into a blowout as YULA won’t be able to handle consistent dribble penetration if forced to change their defensive approach. If they are cold, YULA could 100% win this thing. VT has the experience of playing in games like this before though, and enough shots will fall. Wolfpack by 5.
Oren Glickman: Valley Torah-YULA Sarachek matchups were insane back in my day and I don’t think we’ve had this in awhile. It’ll be nice to see this rivalry reignited. YULA proved me wrong on Thursday and again on Friday but sorry guys. I’m picking against you yet again. Dan and Mayouhas are now totally dialed in after Friday’s win over Katz. Crowd will be advantage YULA for sure. But Schwartzberg will have his guys ready to go in and win this game to return to the championship game. Wolfpack by 8.
AS: Shalhevet has struggled so far this tournament despite winning its first two games. The Firehawks have yet to play a complete 32 minutes in this tournament. Nathan Sellam stepped up in a big way against Magen David to give the Firehawks a narrow win. SAR is hitting its stride at the right time. This is a deep team led by its star in Akiva Schanzer. SAR will have a lead at half, but it will be Shalhevet who pulls through with a win behind the clutch play of Avi Halpert. Shalhevet by 5.
AP: There is something different about this year’s SAR. They are mentally strong. They are playing pressure-free. Neuwirth and Sklar do all of the little things so well, and compliment Schanzer really well. The good version of Shalhevet has yet to show up in New York, and unless something changes quickly, they are going to lose. Coach Coleman is going to have his boys ready for this one, but they won’t be able to play a full 32 minutes at the top of their game. SAR goes to the Championship Game. Sting by 7.
OG: The Firehawks have gotten battle tested by both MTA and Magen David. Now it’s SAR’s turn to slay the top seed. The Sting finally got their win over Frisch. I think they match up well against Shalhevet and think they have a real shot here of coming out on top. Could maybe go to overtime. I’m going with the SAR Sting in a nailbiter. A NY-LA final. Nobody wants an all Cali final. SAR Oleh!
TIER II SEMIFINALS
AS: I won’t pick for this game since I went to Berman and feel connected to this team.
AP: I am going to assume Asher Falk is out, so if he plays you can throw this prediction out the window. Berman put on a very impressive performance on Saturday night, adopting a next man up mentality on both sides of the floor and fighting for the ball like their lives depended on it. They were rewarded with a shot at a berth in the Tier II Championship. I’m just not sure they have enough without Asher to follow that win up with another one. The DRS zone will give the Cougars a lot of issues. Wildcats by 8.
OG: I think the million dollar question is will Asher Falk be playing after sitting out Saturday night? You need him for this one even though the team seemed fine without him last game. I’m going to favor the Wildcats by 12 here. I think DRS have responded very well since being knocked out of Tier 1 and expect that to continue. They will go all in with an opportunity to play the second to last game of Championship Monday at the MSAC.
AS: Fuchs Mizrachi has been waiting for this game since they lost last year in the Tier 1 qualifier against TABC. The Mayhem will play their best game of this tournament and lead the majority of this game. The matchup between Blau and Benlolou will be a can’t miss showdown, but this game will ultimately come down to the surrounding pieces around those players and Fuchs has the advantage in this area. Fuchs by 8.
AP: A rematch of last year’s 3 v 14 Tier I Qualifier. I think Fuchs is, considering injuries on multiple other teams (including Berman, who beat the Mayhem a few weeks ago), the best squad left in Tier II. Even though it is a Tier II game, the gym will be rocking for this one. The crowd will favor the Storm, but the scoreboard will favor Mizrachi. TABC will struggle to guard Fuchs in the halfcourt, and I’m not sure the Storm have enough outside of Benloulou to get into a shootout. Fuchs by 4.
OG: Fuchs are definitely favored in this one. No question about it. TABC rewarded me though with my pick for them to beat Ida Crown so I’m going to take them here again by 3. That would set up a DRS-TABC Tier 2 final on Championship Monday which would be absolutely electric. Expect great turnout from both fan bases for that.
TIER III SEMIFINALS
AS: Eli Wallace has been sensational for the Kings this tournament. MTA has been inconsistent this tournament and I believe that will continue in this game. Kohelet will get the win behind another great Wallace performance and get the win over the MTA Lions. Kohelet by 7.
AP: MTA has found a way to play to the level of their competition 3 straight games--up in game one, neutrally in game 2, and down in game 3. That is a bad recipe for success. The question for me is if MTA can put the ball in the basket consistently, and without great post play, I have to lean no. Wallace and Benjamini combine for 34. Kohelet by 2.
OG: Both the Lions and Kings got on the board with wins Saturday night. I’m going to favor MTA here. The seniors are playing for a chance to play one final home game in the MSAC on Championship Monday. Expect that to motivate them in this one. Lions by 8.
AS: Mesivta woke up in the second half against Farber to pull away for the big victory. Will we see that second half performance carry over into this matchup? I don’t think we will. JEC will control this game in the paint and get the win. JEC by 9
AP: Mesivta is the better team, and showed that in the second half against Farber. But how did they give up 36 points in the first half? If they are not exerting effort on the defensive side of the ball against JEC, they are going to get beat badly. I have been burned before by picking a “social media hype” team. However, I will risk it again here. Mesivta 55, JEC 54.
OG: Mesivta were actually down at halftime to Farber and seemed like they could get upset. They kicked it into higher gear and ended up winning by over 30. JEC took down #11 Maimo Saturday night. I’m going to take the Thunder again here by 7. Can we get another Kadosh throw down this time in the MSAC?