Levine’s free throws seal OT victory as Bulldogs wait on playoff opponent
With two district title-winning free throws Feb. 9, Griffin Levine iced the fourth Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) trophy for the Yavneh boys’ basketball team and avenged last month’s loss to Heritage Christian, 61-59, in overtime.
No. 2 Yavneh (28-3, 11-1 District 3-3A) finishes the season tied with Heritage Christian (18-4, 11-1), but holds the tiebreaker for playoff seeding. No. 3 Heritage Christian defeated Yavneh, 67-42, on Jan. 19 — Yavneh’s only loss since Nov. 14.
In Yavneh’s first meeting with Heritage Christian, the Bulldogs stayed within striking distance in the first half only to dig themselves into a deep hole in the third quarter. The Eagles went on a 26-4 run during that frame en route to a 67-42 win.
This time, the Bulldogs added pressure early with a 24-15 lead after the first quarter and eked out a victory in overtime.
Daniel Chernikov struggled against the size and experience of the Eagles in the first game, but quickly found his groove out of the gate, scoring the first basket. He would continue establishing himself, scoring 14 points and corralling seven rebounds during the game. Yavneh stayed solid and forced several early turnovers. Yavneh held a 30-27 lead at halftime.
Both teams stayed even through the rest of regulation, with fans on the edge of the bleachers. With 17 seconds left, Levine hit a clutch free throw to tie the game at 53. Yavneh recovered possession on a tie-up with 3 seconds left and Levine almost had a game-winning shot at the buzzer.
In overtime, Heritage took the early lead, but the teams found themselves tied at 59 and the Bulldogs with possession. Yavneh played for the last shot and a referee’s whistle sent Levine to the free-throw line with just 5.5 second remaining. He made both — bringing his total to 27 points — and a desperate Heritage heave didn’t find its mark.
Zach Epstein scored 14 points, while Noah Rubinstein contributed seven assists and four steals.
By earning the top seed from District 3, Yavneh will host its second-round playoff game after a first-round bye. The Bulldogs will face the winner of the Irving Highlands (12-7) vs. Denton Calvary (19-10) on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The time will be finalized later this week.
Yavneh defeated Highlands, 65-46, on Jan. 16 and 75-58 on Feb. 2 in district play. Yavneh did not play Calvary this year.
If both Heritage and Yavneh win two games, they will play at Abilene Christian in the state semifinals.
The girls’ basketball team (11-15, 7-5) also made the playoffs. Junior Anna Wernick, the team’s leading scorer, will try to lead Yavneh and topple Midland Classical (23-6, 4-0) in the first round of the playoffs Tuesday, Feb. 21. The time had not been finalized by press deadline.