By Brian Bateman
For the second year in a row, the Yavneh boys’ basketball team has returned from Baltimore with a trophy and hopes for a grand finish to an undefeated start of its season.
The Bulldogs claimed their second straight sweep of the Joseph and Florence Weiner Memorial Tournament in Baltimore on Saturday night with a 56-39 win over Heschel in the final. The girls’ team shared in the Baltimore success, claiming third place in its tournament after defeating Beth Tfiloh, 26-12.
“It was our fifth year going,” boys’ coach David Zimmerman said. “It brings the kids together and we really bond, regardless of whether we win.”
The tournament ends the first portion of the season for both teams, and neither squad will return to action for several weeks. That gives both coaches a few weeks to look at their teams’ strengths and weaknesses and see how best to improve.
Zimmerman is excited about the possibilities of another trip to the TAPPS state tournament this year, and a big reason why is 6-foot, 3-inch Plano transfer Ofek Reef.
“I don’t know if Yavneh has had a player like him before,” Zimmerman said. “He’s a muscular, strong kid who can play every position. Very smart IQ. You put him with Griffin Levine and Pierce Bell and the experience we have, you have a very special potential.”
Reef is averaging nearly a double-double every night in points and rebounds, which — not surprisingly — leads the team in both categories. Levine is just behind with 19 points per game, and Bell is also averaging double figures with 11 points. Bell is grabbing almost six rebounds per game while Levine has almost six assists each contest. Reef leads the team in steals with 3.9 per game.
Reef is scoring at a 63 percent clip, making 107 of 171 baskets on the season so far. His size has helped the Bulldogs maintain their size from last year after losing Noah Rubinstein (6-2) and Daniel Chernikov (6-4) to graduation. Sophomore Mason Schwaber (6-4) and senior returnee Micah Romaner (who has grown to 6-5 from 6-3 last season) help Yavneh retain their size advantage inside.
Besides the shiny new piece of hardware it provided, the tournament allowed Zimmerman to properly evaluate his squad.
“Before the Baltimore tournament, we had not yet seen the competition that we needed to see,” Zimmerman said. “(Most players) had not played more than 17-18 minutes. This tournament was the first time they were pushed.”
Girls claim third
On the girls’ side, Yavneh posted wins over Beth Tfiloh (37-27), Boyar (44-15) and Beth Tfiloh again in the third-place game (26-12). Anna Wernick scored 15 points in that final victory, with sophomore Jessica Lampert scoring six. Wernick and Liel Guttman had four rebounds each and Wernick added four steals. Yavneh went 3-4 in the tournament to bring its season record to 7-8.
The Yavneh boys breezed through their first three games (46-39, 54-42 and 53-31) but had to sweat out a tough, 37-36 win over Boyar in the fourth game. Levine and Reef hit free throws to give the Bulldogs a 37-34 lead with 23.8 seconds left. Boyar collected four straight offensive rebounds and finally scored to cut the lead to one with 3.2 seconds left, but couldn’t get the ball back to take the lead.
The boys added one more victory in the round-robin portion of the tournament, a 55-48 win over Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. They faced Boyar again in the semifinals, but didn’t have much trouble in a 60-44 victory.
In the final, junior Ofek Reef scored 19 points, while Levine was right behind at 18. Bell also scored in double figures with 13 points. Reef also controlled the boards with 12 rebounds and two blocks, while he and Levine had a combined 14 assists on the night.
At the break, senior Anna Wernick leads the girls’ team in points (14.5 per game), rebounds (4.1) and steals (2.1). She is tied with junior Gabbe Krasovitsky at 0.7 assists per game, while freshman Liel Guttman boasts an impressive 3.5 rebounds each contest.
Outside of practices, neither team will see the court for several weeks. The boys will continue their 14-0 season later this month at the Dallas First Baptist Tournament Dec. 27. Both teams begin TAPPS District 3-3A play Jan. 4 at Cristo Rey Dallas College Preparatory. The girls compete at 6:30 p.m. and the boys play afterward. District play continues through Feb. 8.