The Yavneh boys’ basketball team had the speed, but Our Lady of the Hills had the size.
Yavneh played from behind through most of the game before falling short in its first-ever TAPPS Class 3A state championship in double overtime, 46-39, at Abilene Christian.
The game time was changed from 1 p.m. to 10 a.m. to accommodate Yavneh’s trip home before Shabbat.
Luke Schultz, a 6-foot, 9-inch center, dominated the paint for Our Lady of the Hills and collected 14 rebounds and 12 points. Yavneh’s quick guards managed 12 assists and 12 steals — the Hawks had zero in both categories.
Griffin Levine scored 14 points to lead Yavneh, while Noah Rubinstein had eight rebounds.
“The truth is it’s tough to come up a little short,” Head Coach David Zimmerman said. “It’s been such an unbelievable year. I really hope that the boys see it that way because I know the school does and the community does. As the days and weeks and years go by, we’ll be looking back and remember the whole season and the journey and the bus rides and plane trips, not the final score.”
Both teams played championship-caliber defense. Yavneh shot 30 percent for the game, while the Hawks shot 44. Yavneh exerted excessive energy on the defensive end, mainly guarding the Hawks’ interior size. That may have carried over into their shooting legs.
The Bulldogs trailed at halftime, 16-15, and appeared content to shoot jump shots and 3-pointers. Much of that decision was because of Hawks center Schultz. That unwillingness to drive inside led to a 28-23 deficit at the end of the quarter.
But the Bulldogs were able to negate some of Schultz’ effectiveness by keeping him away from the low post.
“We neutralized him as well as anyone this year,” Zimmerman said of the Montana State signee.
Then the Bulldogs pushed the tempo behind Levine. Levine made an assist, hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 28 and then a jumper to take a two-point lead with 2:20 left. Yavneh and the Hawks exchanged 3-pointers and a pair of turnovers. Our Lady of the Hills scored a layup with 49 seconds left to tie it and a Levine turnover right before the end of regulation stopped any chance for a game-winning shot.
In the first overtime, both teams played very conservatively. The Hawks ran off 2 minutes before turning the ball over. Then Yavneh followed suit with an over-and-back violation, giving the Hawks one last chance. The Hawks got to the rim but missed the layup as the buzzer sounded.
In the second overtime, Luke Schultz’ size became a factor again. The center grabbed offensive rebounds, made a basket and free throws to give the Hawks a 40-33 lead. Yavneh battled back and made it 42-39 on a Rubinstein basket, but the Hawks made their free throws down the stretch to reach the final score of 46-39.
“I could not be prouder of these student-athletes and their coaches for the incredible positive energy and pride that they brought to our school community all season long,” said Dr. David A. Portnoy, head of school for Yavneh.
Beyond that, Portnoy said he was “very grateful that TAPPS and the other teams involved accommodated our religious needs to be back for Shabbat in Dallas.”
Yavneh (31-4) will graduate Zach Epstein, Noah Rubinstein, Daniel Chernikov and Liad Guttman. Freshman Jonah Eber and junior Levine, who were both major players in the run to the state tournament, should return.
“We’re losing three seniors who gave so much,” Zimmerman said. “We’re losing size but anytime you can return a top player like Griffin (Levine), the future is bright. Our tournament experience is going to bode well for us.”