Sometimes, winter break can come and provide some relief for a high school basketball team.
But the Yavneh boys want to keep rolling.
The Bulldogs (13-2) just returned from Baltimore, where they raced past every other team at the Joseph and Florence Weiner Memorial Tournament to win the title.
Add in that the weekend’s seven wins puts Yavneh’s streak at 10 games, and it’s easy to see why the Bulldogs don’t want to lose momentum over the break.
Yavneh will play in the Dallas First Baptist Tournament Dec. 19-20, which should help the Bulldogs maintain some edge before they open TAPPS Class 3A District III play on the road against Dallas Covenant Jan. 5. Coach David Zimmerman expects only six players will be available for the tournament, but he said he didn’t want to take a full month off before district play again.
“The team is really starting to come together,” Zimmerman said. “It’s brought a lot of excitement to the school.”
Half of that excitement is the chance of an upcoming great season, but the other half is claiming Yavneh’s first-ever boys’ basketball Jewish tournament title.
“Always in these tournaments, we ask ourselves, ‘How do we score small? How do … we handle the physicality?’ ” Zimmerman said. “These guys really did.”
And they did it without a full roster. Zimmerman said the Bulldogs are down to seven healthy players, and Zachary Epstein had to miss the first day due to his grandfather’s funeral.
During the tournament, the Bulldogs had to grit through several tight games, including a two-point overtime win in the semifinals and two tight games against Ramaz, which faced the Bulldogs in the opening round and the championship.
In that championship game, Epstein had the best game of his career. Epstein scored 23 points, including six 3-pointers.
“It was almost a storybook ending,” Zimmerman said. “His comment after the game was ‘I’m lucky, I’m really not that good. This was for my grandfather.’ ”
Yavneh took its first lead of the game on Epstein’s first 3-pointer, then Griffin Levine helped create a 17-2 run and a 23-17 halftime lead. Ramaz put together a 9-2 run in the third quarter to tie it at 31, but Daniel Chernikov and Jonah Eber closed out the quarter with two old-fashioned 3-point plays.
Ramaz stayed close in the fourth quarter and threatened to take the lead, but Epstein hit two more 3-pointers to make it 46-39, which allowed the Bulldogs to maintain their lead and claim the 54-49 victory.
Epstein was named the tournament MVP. Levine and Chernikov were first-team all-tournament selections and Noah Rubinstein was a second-team pick.
On the season, Levine leads the team in scoring and assists, averaging 17.4 points per game and 4.1 assists. Chernikov has 20 total blocks, while Noah Rubinstein leads the squad with 7.8 rebounds per game.