PURCHASE, NY– Dominant shooting and a tight second half defense led the way as YU Basketball won its first ever Skyline Conference Championship, defeating SUNY Purchase 87-81 on Sunday afternoon. The win earned the Mac’s a bracket in the NCAA Division Three tournament for the first time in program history. Coach Elliot Steinmetz and his staff, the Mac’s bench and the the men on the court couldn’t contain their excitement as the clock slowly ticked to zero. Pandemonium permeated the gym as the #6thman crowd roared its new theme song: “mishenichnas adar marbim b’simcha”.
“There was such a tremendous feeling of pride and unity” said Malky Perlberger, a sophomore at SCW, of the emotions in the building during the game. Malky was one of the hundreds of YU students and alumni who attended this jaw-dropping and anxiety-ridden sporting event.
A lead of 8 with one minute to play did not feel safe against a Purchase team who had defeated the Macs on a buzzer beater during the regular season.
In a game where three pointers rained down, a lead never felt big enough until the scoreboard read
After falling behind early from a 15-2 attack from the resilient and aggressive Purchase offense, no one in the room was getting down on the Macs; coming from behind to win is familiar territory for this team this season.
Speaking of familiar territory, the 2017-2018 Maccabees reached a record breaking 17 wins with a terrific help defense, creative coaching and adjustments after injuries, and by shooting a lot and shooting well. We were graced with YU’s own version of the Splash Brothers as 8 players attempted 40+ three pointers this season. They stayed true to themselves in the championships as six players scored threes, shooting a combined 53.3% from the outside.
About halfway into the first half Justin Hod, hero of the quarterfinal game against Mount St. Mary, drained a corner three, his first of 6, to give the Macs a 24-23 lead. Hod’s laser shifted the game’s momentum in favor of the Macs, who would go on to lead for 62% of the game. Hod finished with a career high 18 points, going a Curry-like 6 for 6 from behind the arc. Simcha Halpert stood out as well, scoring 25 points and finishing with five assists. Halpert went 8 for 8 on his free throws, which proved to be the difference in the game. Gabriel Leifer got in on the action by grabbing 11 rebounds and using his superb court vision to dish out 7 assists. Senior and captain Eli Mamann hit a three pointer and later, after the clock ran to zero and the championship shirts were distributed, lead the net cutting ceremony that traditionally follows a championship win.
“These kids have so much heart. They’re amazing to be around.” Coach Elliot Steinmetz told YUmacs.com after the semi-final win against Farmingdale State. As Coach Steinmetz cut down the remainder of the net, his statement rang true; the athletes stood arm and arm and beaming and cheering for their head coach. The Macslive.com broadcasters repeatedly mentioned that a new era for Mac’s basketball began with the hiring of Coach Steinmetz four years ago. Though it is impossible to perfectly predict outcomes in sports (unless you are Biff from Back to the Future), how could you deny that this team, brimming with talent, has endless potential?
On Sunday Morning, before the heading to the game, President Berman spoke at Yeshiva University HS for Girls about his Five Torot and had the pleasure of promoting the basketball team’s playoff run. Our president, clearly proud of the team’s accomplishment, impressed the crowd with the tidbit and joked about the surprising height of the team, considering the expected height of Jewish men. His tone, though, turned serious when speaking about the character of the team.
“You see their strength and their power of will” praised President Berman. Berman also commended the athletes commitment to helping their opponents up when they fall, describing these actions as a “kiddush hashem”.
For some time the now the YU Maccabees have been known for their sportsmanship and menchlichtkeit. “People enjoy playing them” said President Berman.
This positivity and attitude will always be a cornerstone of YU athletics, but now that this team is a Champion, we will be known for much more than our sportsmanship. Opposing coaches will be less excited to play us: not because we will change the way we play, but because we now developed the tenacity and drive the comes with knowing how it feels to win… and wanting to experience that joy again.