Boys basketball team advances in CIF playoffs

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BP Photo by Maia Lefferman

FIGHT: Firehawk and Bulldog players scramble for ball possession at the opening game of the CIF Southern Section playoffs Feb.12. Shalhevet prevailed 68-59 against Buena, a team that beat them by 14 in December.

Alex Rubel, Senior Editor

The Firehawks came to play in the opening round of this year’s CIF playoffs, beating the Bulldogs of Buena High School in Ventura on Wednesday night, 68-59 in a game that kept fans of both sides on the edge of their seats.

 

BP Photo by Maia Lefferman
DEFENSE: Firehawk players Jacob Pofsky and Jacob Benezra attempt to block a layup by Buena guard and forward Austin Schliecher at Wednesday’s playoff game in the gym. The Firehawks have advanced to the next round of the CIF playoffs and will play Westlake on Saturday night.

A crowd of about 75 fans in the gym was rewarded with stellar play by their team, facing an opponent who had defeated Shalhevet 70-56 in the Ventura Kiwanis Tournament last December. It was the opening round of the Division 3AA playoffs for CIF’s Southern Section (which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties except for the LAUSD.) 

 

Firehawk Head Coach Ryan Coleman said team camaraderie on and off the court had made an impact on the team’s performance.

“We’ve really changed our entire approach with each other, more than anything, and that carries onto the basketball court,” said Coach Coleman, who led the team to a historic playoff run in last year’s CIF playoffs. “We’ve also changed a few things tactically, to be more successful.”

Led by captains junior Ze’ev Remer and senior Jacob Benezra, as well as junior Jacob Posky, the Firehawks played a fundamentally sound game. They were dominant on both ends of the court, making the most of every possession and playing a clean game with few turnovers. 

“We really stepped it up tonight,” said Ze’ev, who was named Glouberman All-Team along with Jacob Benezra last fall.

The evening was rough at first for the Firehawks, who fell behind 18-11 at the end of the first quarter. But by the five-minute mark of the first half, the Firehawks had taken the lead, thanks to big shots by Jacob Posky and the playmaking of the Firehawk captains. Shalhevet took a three-point lead into halftime, 37-34.

In the second half, Shalhevet kept up its momentum, helped by sophomore Uzi Mermelstein and freshman Avi Halpert. Buena, meanwhile, struggled to make shots and was out-rebounded badly by the Firehawks, who began to dominate defensively.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Buena managed to close the deficit to just one point. A missed layup put the game more out of reach for the Bulldogs when the Firehawks immediately scored a layup of their own off it. Shalhevet ran the clock well and celebrated at the buzzer with a 68-59 win.

Athletic Coordinator Coach Jeff Remer — who coached the Firehawk girls last season — praised the team for battling back to beat the well-coached and talented Buena team.

“It’s sad that somebody had to lose this game,” said Coach Remer. “It was just that type of a game, but I’m very proud of the Firehawks and how they prevailed.”

Shalhevet hopes to extend its winning streak when the girls team takes on Cal Lutheran Thursday night at Shalhevet at 7 p.m. The boys are slated to play an away game against Westlake on Saturday night in the second round of the playoffs.