Shalhevet students shine in Maccabi games

Photo Courtesy of Sigal Spitzer

By Eitan Rothman, Staff Writer

Four Shalhevet students competed in the international JCC Maccabi games last summer, representing Los Angeles’ Westside Jewish Community Center in competition against teams from throughout the U.S. and a number of foreign countries as well. Juniors Jojo Fallas and Ari Wachtenheim went to Philadelphia to play basketball while Max Lipner and Sigal Spitzer went to Israel to play tennis. Max and Sigal both finished in the top four of the tennis tournaments, which were held July 24 – Aug. 6.  In basketball, Jojo and  Ari were international winners in the 16-and-under tournament, held Aug. 15 – 18. “For any Jewish athlete it’s a dream to compete in our holy land with other Jews,” Max Lipner told The Boiling Point.  “Maccabi was an amazing experience.” The format of each tournament is a basic “round-robin” pool, meaning that everyone plays everyone, no matter who came from where and how good they are. After the round-robin, the top teams and athletes enter into a single elimination tournament where the players are ranked one through 16 and the highest ranked player plays the lowest ranked player. The loser is eliminated and the winner advances to the next round. In the girls’ 15-and-under tennis competition, Sigal finished second, losing to Helen Klass–Warch of St. Paul, Minn. Sigal said the experience helped her grow as a player. “It was fun to see other people’s techniques, and a different experience to play with new kids,” said Sigal. “I learned that tennis is a mental game and that even though your physical attributes play a big part, your mental state and attitude during the game is key to winning matches.” Max finished fourth in the 17-and-under  “white” division, going 3-1 in the round-robin pool and losing in the quarterfinals to Daniel Steinhauser of Denver. In basketball, the Westside team suffered a surprising early-on loss to the Suffolk JCC from Long Island, N.Y., in Philadelphia. 60-4.  But after that, JoJo, Ari and their teammates bounced back and won the rest of their games, concluding the tournament with a victory over the Chicago JCC. In the final game Ari had 27 points, starting a run at the beginning of the third quarter to extend their lead from 10 to 18 points. JoJo finished with 20 points and hit a key shot in the fourth quarter to stop a comeback run from Chicago. Shalhevet’s athletes said it was interesting to play against people who came from so far away. “Tennis is a universal sport and everyone plays a different style,,” said Max. “There wasn’t a particular style for anyone from, say, England. But it was cool to see how other people played.” But Jojo Fallas thought there was something different about East Coast basketball. “People from the East Coast are more aggressive and attack the basket more,” Jojo said, “while people from Panama rely on athleticism more than their actual skill.” The players experienced religious diversity as well. “On Shabbat we had an exchange, so Max and I stayed at an Orthodox home in Tel Aviv,” said Sigal. “It was interesting to see contrast between Orthodox there and Modern Orthodox here.” “Now I can say I know a Jew from different places all across the world, “ she added.