Bulldogs face No. 8 Heritage Christian as both try to stay undefeated in district play
Most high school basketball players have one goal in mind every year: seeing their school’s name in the record book, followed by “state champion.”
But a No. 1 state ranking isn’t too bad, either.
That’s where Yavneh Academy’s boys’ basketball team finds itself ahead of a big road game.
The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches ranked Yavneh the No. 1 team in the state in the boys’ small private school division Monday. However, just seven spots behind the Bulldogs is a team hoping to unseat the top-ranked team in their own gym at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19: Rockwall Heritage Christian.
“I’m really happy for the school; they can look in there and see that,” Head Coach David Zimmerman said. Zimmerman said it was the first time the school has ever been ranked No. 1. The Bulldogs were ranked as high as No. 2 in 2013.
But he noted it wasn’t the end of the campaign.
“I don’t love rankings … it’s an honor because these are coaches who know the game and … it’s very flattering, but our message is it’s all talk and the reality becomes, that puts a big ol’ bull’s-eye on us for every game.
“They view it the same way.”
What Zimmerman and the Bulldogs see is a solid Eagles squad that has vastly increased its bench. Last year, the Eagles (10-3, 3-0 TAPPS 3A District III) and Bulldogs split, both winning at home, but this year the Eagles brought in several transfers and boast 13 seniors.
“They’re very deep,” Zimmerman said. “I have seven (healthy) guys right now, and only nine with a full roster. Energy is going to be huge. We’ve been in great shape and we do a great job speeding up when we need to, and slow it down when necessary.”
Both teams have already defeated Dallas Covenant. In a Dec. 10 nondistrict tournament game, Heritage Christian lost to Highlands, 49-48, which the Bulldogs just defeated Monday. However, that loss came before Heritage Christian’s dual-sport athletes hung up their football cleats and started running wind sprints.
“People are starting to see how good they are,” Zimmerman said.
Yavneh (21-2, 4-0) has been rolling through its foes, claiming 18 straight victories since a 64-56 loss to Oakridge on Nov. 14. That streak has included a sweep of the Dallas First Baptist tournament and the Weiner tournament in Baltimore.
It’s been a combined attack, with six of nine players averaging more than five points. Griffin Levine leads the way with 17.7 while Daniel Chernikov posts 12.5 points. Noah Rubinstein leads the team with 7.4 rebounds per game, while Chernikov is right behind at 7.1. Micha Romaner averages 5.2.
Levine and Rubinstein are neck-and-neck for the assists lead at 4.7 and 4.6, respectively.
Against Highlands, the game went back and forth through the opening quarter. Romaner scored on a jumper to give Yavneh its first lead at 6-5. The Bulldogs claimed a 12-7 lead after that frame, but Highlands stormed back to make it a one-point game at 20-19. Yavneh responded with four straight points from offensive rebounds and led, 24-19, at the break.
Yavneh put away the game in the third quarter with an 18-7 advantage and expanded its lead to 52-34 with less than 4 minutes left in the game. Levine came within shouting distance of a triple-double with 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, while Chernikov scored 16 points. Rubinstein was one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points.
Yavneh hosts Dallas Lutheran at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24 to close out the first half of district play.