Sunday, March 24, 2019

The YU Macs celebrating their first ever Skyline Conference championship win.

Justin Hod shoots one of his many threes.

Win Skyline Conference crown for the first time ever.

The Yeshiva University men’s basketball team won its first ever Skyline Conference championship, knocking off #2 Purchase College by a score of 87-81, at the Purchase College Gymnasium last week. As a result, the Maccabees earn their first bid into the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament in program history.

“There is nothing much to say. We are champs,” Yeshiva University Head Coach Elliot Steinmetz said. “These kids worked hard, stayed the course through everything all season and now we are champs forever. What a moment!”

Yeshiva (18-10) won the championship as the number four seed. Purchase (18-9) entered the contest with an undefeated record at home, at 12-0, before it was snapped by the Maccabees.

Sophomore guard Simcha Halpert was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Skyline Conference championships. Halpert was able to rise to the occasion in the championship game, scoring a game-high 25 points and dishing out five assists. He shot 6-for-9 from the field and 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. Halpert also went a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Junior guard Justin Hod of Teaneck shot 6-for-6 from 3-point range to score 18 points, while his brother, sophomore guard Tyler Hod, contributed 11 points and four assists, brought down three boards and forced a pair of steals. Sophomore forward Bar Alluf added 16 points, distributed five assists, and grabbed four caroms. Classmate Gabriel Leifer had a productive performance in the championship game by scoring seven points, tying a game-high with 11 rebounds, and dishing out seven assists. Sophomore forward Daniel Katz had seven points, with two rebounds, and just as many assists, while sophomore forward Kevin Bokor forced a steal.

“I am so thrilled to have been along for this ride with the team,” Yeshiva University Director of Athletics Joe Bednarsh said. “These young men worked so hard to bring the Skyline trophy home for the first time in school history and I could not be more proud of them.”

People from all over the world have been following the men’s basketball team and its run to the championship. “People have been reaching out to me about this team, from Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, Israel, England and more,” Bednarsh said. “The Maccabees are truly the pride of the Jewish people.”

The Maccabees got off to a slow start, falling behind by a score of 23-11, 6:31 into the contest. A layup by Alluf sparked a 13-0 run for Yeshiva, in a span of 4:39. Capping off the run was a 3-point field goal by Justin Hod to give the Macs their first lead of the game, by a score of 24-23, with 8:41 left to play in the opening half. Tarik Allicock answered with a layup to put Purchase back on top, 25-24.

Later in the half, Justin Hod’s 3-point field goal broke a 30-30 tie and allowed Yeshiva to regain the advantage. He drilled another shot from beyond the arc on YU’s next offensive possession to increase the Blue and White’s lead to 36-32, with less than three minutes to go in the opening period. Justin Hod would strike again, nailing his sixth 3-point field goal of the half to increase the Macs’ lead to 40-34 with 1:46 remaining in the opening period. In the closing seconds of the half, senior forward Eli Mamann took a feed from Halpert and drained a 3-pointer to give YU its largest lead of the period, 43-35, and that would be the score at the intermission.

Alluf guided Yeshiva to a strong start in the second stanza, as he laid the ball up and in, while being fouled. He hit the free throw to complete the traditional three-point play to put the Maccabees up, 46-35. Leifer continued YU’s momentum by laying the ball up and in, to give Yeshiva its largest lead of the contest, 52-37, with 17:18 remaining in regulation time.

The Panthers would turn the tide in its favor by going on a 17-2 run, capped off by a 3-point field goal by Michael Soffer, to even the game up, at 54-54, with 12:22 remaining in the second half. Less than a minute later, Brian Berrios drained a 3-pointer to give Purchase its first lead of the half, 58-57. Yeshiva was able to regain its composure, as Halpert and Alluf combined for back-to-back field goals to put YU back in front, 61-58, with 10:46 left to play.

After a layup by Deshawn Cann gave the Panthers a one-point lead, Tyler Hod countered with a pair of timely free throws to put YU back in front, with 9:27 left in regulation. Less than three minutes later, Halpert drilled a 3-point basket to give Yeshiva more breathing room, at 70-66. Just over a minute later, Alluf hit a 3-pointer of his own to increase the Maccabees’ advantage to 73-68. Katz continued YU’s momentum by laying the ball up and in to extend Yeshiva’s lead to 75-68, with just 3:20 remaining. Purchase went on a mini-run, but Halpert nipped it in the bud with a clutch 3-pointer to put Yeshiva up, 79-70, with 1:31 left to play.

YU was able to hit key free throws in the closing minute to not allow Purchase to get to within striking distance. Cann did hit a 3-point basket with 14 ticks left on the clock to narrow Yeshiva’s lead to 85-79. After getting fouled intentionally, Halpert successfully hit both free throws to make it a three-possession game and put the contest out of reach for Purchase.

The buzzer sounded and Yeshiva earned its first Skyline championship and bid into the NCAA tournament in program history.

In the first round, YU is scheduled to play York College (PA) at York on Friday, March 2.