CHAMPIONS!!!! Firehawks win Sarachek

Top-ranked Shalhevet team wins 53 – 51 in overtime in NY; Zack Muller is MVP, Ze’ev Remer makes key plays


Hila Machmali

For Coach Coleman and the Firehawks, third time’s the charm — or was it the three Z’s: Zack, Ze’ev and Zaghi?

It seemed improbable, nearly impossible. The Firehawks had been down 20-6 and were still losing 29-14 at the half. Victory was slipping away.  Valley Torah, it seemed, had completely shut them down.

But in the locker room, Coach Ryan Coleman gave his team a simple message, and it stuck with them throughout the second half.

“I told them we were down 15 points already, you’ve got nothing to lose, might as well just let it fly,” Coach Coleman told The Boiling Point later.

And that seemed to be enough, as the team came back to win the Tier 1 Sarachek Championship 53-51 yesterday against the Valley Torah Wolfpack, before a thrilled and jubilant crowd in the Max Stern Athletic Center at Yeshiva University in New York.

With at least two-thirds of Shalhevet watching either in person or via broadcast in the gym in Los Angeles, the Firehawks — who went into the tournament ranked No. 1 by Jewish Hoops America — took the game to overtime and got the win after one last defensive stop.

It was only the second time in Shalhevet history that the team had won Sarachek, the oldest, most famous and most prestigious Orthodox tournament. It is named after Bernard Sarachek, who coached at YU from 1940 to 1969. Yeshiva University has been deemed “the birthplace of modern basketball,” as Sarachek himself had strong ball-handling skills.

The last time the Firehawks won was in 2013.

However, it was their third straight year making the Tier 1 final. They lost to DRS (Davis Renov Stahler) High School of Woodmere, N.Y., two years ago and Frisch of New Jersey last year.

Junior guard Zack Muller, who scored 28 points, was named the tournament’s MVP.  He said the reason he caught fire in the second half was the memory of the two prior championship losses.

“It was really just remembering the past two years that I’ve been on both teams, and we lost in both championship games,” Zack said. “I didn’t want to go down without a fight, so just tried to play my hardest and do whatever I can.”

After the win, Zack felt on top of the world.

“It felt amazing after,” he said, “because first of all we won the championship… This is our second one in school history, and to win it with that kind of family and teammates — I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”  Gilad Spitzer

Coach Coleman said that it also helped having been in a similar situation earlier in the year against the same team. On Feb. 3, the Firehawks were down 12 at halftime against Wolfpack. That time, they came back and won 56-52.

However, this was not a regular season game. This time it was for the Sarachek title.

The whole community had eyes on the Firehawks.

Shalhevet senior classes follow an unofficial tradition of going to the tournament, and almost the entire class  of ’18 was there cheering, except for members of the Robotics team, whose tournament was at the same time.

Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal and teachers Rabbi Abraham Lieberman and Rabbi Yagil Tsaidi were there, along with plenty of parents and many alumni, including former Firehawk basketball players Simcha Halpert, Zev Marcus and Adam Kaufler, all ’15;  Jeremy Glouberman ‘16, and Jacob Dauer and Derek Orenshein ‘17.  


Throughout the first quarter, the likelihood of a victory seemed dim. In the second quarter, the Firehawks were down 20-6, and were struggling to guard the three best players on Valley Torah: Ryan Turell and Israeli twins Nimrod and Nadav Altit.

All three are not only dedicated and skilled, but are 6’6’ or taller.  Before the game,, the YU Macabees’ and Sarachek’s official website, called the Wolfpack’s semi-finals win over Magen David of Brooklyn “Goliath Defeats David,”

Coach Coleman said that the Firehawks were in fact slow to react to what the Wolfpack gave them on defense. At the halftime buzzer, the score was 29 – 15, Valley Torah.

“Offensively, in the first half I probably should have called a timeout, in hindsight, and made some adjustments to how awfully we were handling their defense,” the coach said.

But from the very beginning of the second half, the Firehawks were hot. After a quick jumper from Zack, freshman Ze’ev Remer hit a layup and drew a foul. After hitting the free throw, Ze’ev had cut the lead to 10.

After a three from Zack and a layup from senior Ben Mashiach, the Firehawks had cut their deficit by half — down only by seven.

Then, after an offensive foul on the Wolfpack, Zack Muller went for a three, made the shot and then was fouled, giving him the opportunity for a rare four-point play. He made the free throw and the crowd went nuts, both in New York and back at Shalhevet.

It’s impressive enough for a player to hit from three-point range, but to make the shot while being fouled rarely happens.

Now, the lead for the Wolfpack was only three. What seemed like a lost game was slowly turning into a game the Firehawks could win.

To end the third quarter, the Firehawks had gone on a 21-6 run, which tied the game at 35.

At the beginning of the fourth, the Firehawks had their first lead. Zack hit two free throws, and the Firehawks were up 37-35.


WINNERS: Shalhevet Firehawks beat the Valley Torah Wolfpack 53-51 in the Red Sarachek Tournament.

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With around six minutes remaining in regular play, the Firehawks were up by four. But the Wolfpack would not back down.

Ryan Turell got an and-one layup, then missed the free throw.

Then Zack Muller, as he had throughout the second half, stepped up for the Firehawks.

He was being guarded by Ryan Turell.

It was mano e mano, Muller vs. Turell; arguably the two best players on the court going at it.

Zack stepped back, went up for the shot, and showed Ryan who was boss. The Firehawks were up four, 41-37.

After that, Zack could not be stopped. On the Firehawks’ next possession, he drove in the lane. Even though he was smothered by the gigantic Valley Torah players, he managed to air the ball, bank it off the glass, and get fouled.

Coach Ryan said that he was surprised by Zack’s extraordinary play.

“Zack’s performance was a little bit eye-opening,” the coach said. He said Zack had not performed at his best during the tournament’s first two games, but was on fire this time.

The Firehawks fans were going berserk.

And then, on top of the crazy shot made by Zack, a technical foul was called on Nadav Altit for talking back to the refs.

Even though the Wolfpack had lost momentum, they were not out of it. Turell hit two free throws cutting the lead to 4.

Then, the Wolfpack stole the ball from junior Eitan Remer, Ze’ev’s brother, and had an open lane towards the basket. Eitan then saved the Firehawks from giving up an easy two points by knocking the ball out of bounds. Valley Torah now had the ball at its own basket.

An easy layup for the Wolfpack cut the lead down to two. A questionable shot clock violation on the Firehawks gave the Wolfpack an opportunity to tie the game.

The Wolfpack gave the ball to none other than Ryan Turell. Even though he was double-teamed, he managed to use his height and make the shot. The score was tied.

The Firehawks had a last-chance shot from Asher Dauer, but he just missed. For the first time since 2015, the Sarachek Tier I Championship was going into overtime.

Coach Coleman said that from then on, his strategy was to not settle for outside shots.

“We were just trying to attack the basket, we were trying to do whatever we could to get to the rim, and not settle for outside shots,” he said. “Because in that point of the game, when you’re that tired, those are probably not going to fall.”

To start off the overtime period, the Wolfpack received the tip. Turell hit an early jumper to give the Wolfpack the lead.

Muller then made one of two free throws for the Firehawks, and redeemed himself by getting an and-one on the next possession.  Every point mattered. After hitting the free throw, the game was knotted up at 50.

Turell was then fouled, and made one of two.

The Firehawks now had the ball but could not get past the gigantic Valley Torah squad. Coach Coleman had to call two consecutive timeouts to talk it over with his team.

After Asher Dauer hit one of two free throws, the game was tied at 51.

Now Valley Torah had the ball and an opportunity to win the game. However, Shalhevet’s Ben Mashiach grasped a defensive rebound after a Valley Torah miss. Shalhevet had the ball with 21 seconds left.

Ze’ev Remer was then fouled and sent to the line. The pressure was immense — just 2.5 seconds left to the game, a ninth-grader with the whole championship in his first-year hands.

He said he was slightly nervous.

“I had a little bit of nerves in me,” Ze’ev said in an interview, “knowing that this was to make or break the game.

“But I knew I had two shots — I’ve made a million free throws in my life, so it wasn’t anything different,” he said.

Coach Coleman told the Boiling Point that Ze’ev doesn’t let things get to him.

“He doesn’t get rattled at all,” he said. “He’s unphased.”

Ze’ev hit both free throws, and the Firehawks were up 53-51.  The stands went wild — but there were still 2.5 seconds to go.

Valley Torah called a timeout to draw up a play.

Wolfpack sophomore Yonah Hammi attempted to throw a Hail Mary pass to a teammate. But it was stolen by the last-minute hero of the game — that same Ze’ev Remer.

Ze’ev held the ball, and the Firehawks were Sarachek champions.

Coach Ryan said that he appreciated the help from the stands.

“We really appreciated the school’s support,” he said.


In an interview Tuesday, Ryan Turell said that in the second half it was hard for the Wolfpack to stop Shalhevet, specifically Zack Muller.

“We had a little trouble stopping some of the guys,” Ryan told the Boiling Point last night. “Muller went off, he played sensational.”

He also gave a shoutout to Ze’ev Remer, saying that stepping up as a freshman is “tough.”

Ryan also said that his team got into foul trouble, which prevented them from playing aggressively.  He said that even though the Wolfpack lost, he was proud of his guys.

“We stuck together the whole tournament, we were a family the whole tournament… I’m just proud of everybody,” Ryan said.

He also said that playing with the Altit twins had been awesome.

“They’re great guys, great personalities, great teammates… obviously they’re pretty talented,” he said. “All in all, amazing.”

Coach Coleman said the Wolfpack had indeed been tough to guard.

Coach Ryan said his defense was essentially a 5-on-3, his five defenders on the best three Valley Torah players — Ryan Turrell and Nadav and Nimrod Altit.

“The strategy was to guard the twins and not let them score, and to guard Turell with multiple people at the same time and not guard number 2 or number 3 at all,” he said. “It felt like a five-on-three game to me.”

Senior Benny Zaghi guarded Ryan Turell throughout the majority of the game, using what he called a ‘T defense.”

“Specifically with Turell, it was a T defense,” said Benny. “If I guard him just by myself… we would have Ze’ev guard somebody who isn’t that much of a threat offensively and always have my back when Turell would blow by.”

He then explained that if the Valley Torah players set a screen for Turell, the Shalhevet defenders would “blitz” the screen, sending both Turell’s defender and the screener’s defender on Turell.

It worked.  Turell was held to 21 points and the Altits to seven (Nadav) and three (Nimrod). Zack Muller had earned 28 points, and Ze’ev Remer — still in ninth grade — was second with 11.

Goliath had proven a tough competitor, but the Firehawks’ combination of hard work, strategy, determination and dedication was tougher.  Valley Torah had its threesome, and Shalhevet its three Z’s: Zaghi, Ze’ev, and Zack.  

It was just a bad first half.

This story won Second Prize for Sports News in CSPA’s 2019 Digital Gold Circle Awards, and Honorable Mention, NSPA 2018 Digital Story of the Year,  Multimedia Sports Story Package.