Senior Zack Muller took a short walk from the Shalhevet bench to the free throw line. Muller had just come up with a steal and rebounded his own layup attempt, before being fouled by a Magen David defender. The Shalhevet Firehawks were clinging on to a 52-49 lead with just 11.5 seconds remaining. Muller took a deep breath, then swished a free throw, giving the Firehawks a two possession lead. Michael Natkin missed a three point attempt on the other end and the Firehawks grabbed the rebound.
Ironically enough, this year’s championship ended in the same way as last year’s: Ze'ev Remer knocking down two shots from the free throw line. The 2.1 seconds left on the clock ran out, and for a second straight year, it was the Shalhevet fans who stormed the court.
For the Firehawks, it was not an easy road to the championship, as the Magen David Warriors went step for step with the top seeded team all night.
In the first quarter, Albert Nsiri scored a couple of buckets, and the Warriors locked up defensively, working their way to a 14-10 lead. A bold strategy by Warrior’s Coach Dweck focused on shutting down Muller and Rossi offensively. Asher Dauer and Jeremy Asheghian were forced to step up for the Firehawks, and they did. However, Edmond Antebi, Teddy Cohen, and Michael Natkin played exceptionally offensively. Besides for a few layups, it almost seemed like this Warrior team could not miss. Magen David rode that momentum to a 27-21 lead at the half.
For a second straight year, the top seeded Firehawks came back in the second half. Asheghian opened up the second half with a three. Remer made it two in a row, as the Firehawks tied up the game. Edmond Antebi and Michael Natkin answered right back for the Warriors, as they regained a 34-29 lead. At the end of the third quarter, Muller cut the lead to one, and Noah Rossi’s layup gave Shalhevet their first lead of the second half with under a minute to go in the quarter. Remer’s layup ended a strong quarter for the Firehawks, as they took a 39-36 lead into the 4th.
Teddy Cohen started the fourth quarter with a bang, tying the game up at 39 on a three point shot. After an Asheghian three, Michael Natkin continued his phenomenal game, scoring five straight points, giving Magen David a two point advantage. With four minutes left on the clock, Asher Dauer scored on an old fashioned three point play; then Jacob Benezra hit a big three to give Shalhevet a five point lead with 3:10 remaining. But Magen David would not go away. Natkin continued to shoot the lights out, knocking down another three on the next possession, cutting the lead to 49-47 with two and half minutes left.
That's when 2019 Sarachek Tournament MVP Asher Dauer cemented his name in Sarachek history. Dauer nailed a three point jumper to give Shalhevet a 52-47 advantage with 1:31 on the scoreboard. Edmond Antebi hit a baseline shot, keeping the Warriors alive. Michael Natkin had a chance to tie the game on a three, but the shot fell short, and Muller headed to the line for a chance to seal the game.
The front end of Muller’s one-and-one rolled out of the hoop, and Magen David had another opportunity to tie the game. But Zack Muller made up for the missed free throw by stealing the ball and then hitting a free throw on the other end, making it a four point game.
The final score read Shalhevet 55, Magen David 49, and the Firehawks clinched their second straight Sarachek Championship.
Dauer finished with 17 points for Shalhevet. Asheghian added 14 more, while Muller and Remer had nine and eight respectively. For Magen David, Natkin finished with a game high 19 points, and Antebi had 16 as well. Shalhevet limited Nsiri to just four points.
With the win, Shalhevet becomes the first team to win back-to-back titles since YULA in 2000-2001.
>>Thank you to all those who worked for MacsLive during this 2019 Sarachek tournament.