Students defeat staff after end-of-game dispute sparks replay of final seconds


BP Photo by Deanna Grunfeld

By Jacob Elspas, Staff Writer, and Josh Einalhori, 10th grade

The crowd is silent. There are seven seconds left on the clock. The seniors are down by one, and they have a plan. The ball is in-bounded as everyone runs down the court. The crowd counts down the seconds. Just as they shout “Zero!” the ball is in the air. Amazingly, the seniors have come from a one-point deficit to win the game.

Or so they thought.

As it turned out, Shalhevet’s first-ever Seniors-vs.-Staff basketball game had more twists than a pretzel challah.  As a fundraiser for the Poland-Israel trip, it was pretty straightforward – nine faculty members took turns facing five seniors on the Sport Court Dec. 7 during lunch.  Interest was high enough that at least 50 people paid the $2 admission fee.

But the score varied wildly throughout the game, culminating in a last-minute standoff that had to be replayed because of disagreement about when the clock actually ran out. In the end, the seniors defeated staff and faculty, 50-49.

The staff, led by Judaic Studies teacher Noam Weissman and Athletic Director Ronnie “Flava” Winbush, started off the game strong, scoring some early points, but the students stayed close behind. It seemed the teachers had a good chance of winning.

But soon the five seniors, led by Yossi Halpert and Adam Sharabi, started to drain their shots. By half-time, the students — all members of the Firehawk varsity basketball team — had more than twice as many points as the staff, leading 27 – 12.   Also scoring were Ari Feuer, David Rokah and Adam Ashkenazi.

Referees were Chemistry teacher Mr. Christopher Buckley and Firehawk basketball star JoJo Fallas, who couldn’t play because he’s a junior. Senior Eitan Spitzer was timekeeper, and Student Activities Director Raizie Weissman kept the score.

The staff rotated various teachers in and out throughout the game, with Coach Flava, a former basketball pro, hanging back to give Mr. Danovitch and Dr. Smallwood, along with Rabbis Segal, Leubitz, Yanklowitz and Schwarzberg and Reb Tuli Skaist – all dressed in gym shorts and T-shirts – a chance to make their mark.

Midway through the second half the seniors were leading by 22 points, but Flava got the staff team going by making a flurry of three-pointers and free throws. With Flava’s boost, along with a three-pointer by Mr. Weissman, the staff started to come back.

Things really heated up in the fourth quarter. The staff had slowly been catching up, and by the time there were only three minutes left in the game, the score was tied. For the next two minutes the score kept changing hands, and tension was rising.

In the final minute, the seniors inbounded the ball and gave it to Yossi Halpert, the captain of the Firehawk team. Yossi was running the final few seconds off the clock, and as time was ticking the crowd counted down.  With three seconds left Yossi dribbled in and made a baseline jump-shot — which resulted in a score of 50 to 49, seniors win.

The crowd was already up and cheering when a whistle was blown by Mr. Buckley. As the two teams respectfully argued a few feet away, Mr. Buckley consulted with JoJo and Eitan, and after a few minutes of suspense, Mr. Buckley announced the decision: The final shot and time were too close to call, and the clock would be reset at 15 seconds to give both sides a fair chance.

“I actually didn’t agree with the decision,” said referee Mr. Buckley, explaining that Eitan’s clock still had a second to go when Yossi took his shot, and the crowd’s chanting was a second ahead.

“If it had been just up to me, the shot wouldn’t have counted,” he said,  “because the countdown was what everyone was responding to.  Jojo and Eitan were pretty adamant that Yossi’s shot should have counted though, and when Rabbi Segal suggested we have a replay, we complied.”

This time, when seniors inbounded the ball to Yossi, there was no waste of time. Yossi dribbled into the key, put up a shot over the outstretched arms of Rabbi Yanklowitz and Mr. Weissman, and it banked in with seven seconds left. Seniors were up by one point.

The staff team took a time out, and Coach Flava used the back of the scoreboard easel to sketch out a final play. The staff inbounded the ball to Rabbi Yanklowitz, who took two dribbles and put up a jump shot, but the final attempt came up short. The seniors dribbled the ball to run out the remaining seconds and savored their victory.

The players shook hands and ran off to catch their next class.

Sports Editor Tamar Willis and Deputy Editor Ari Feuer contributed to this story.