Lady Firehawks are first-ever Glouberman champs — and more

CHAMPIONS: Coach Ronnie ‘Flava’ Winbush shared a cheer with the Lady Firehawks before the their first game at the Steve Glouberman Tournament in 2015. The team went on to be tournament champions.

After starting the season with dazzling play on the home court to win the first-ever Steve Glouberman Basketball Tournament, the Shalhevet girls’ basketball team went on to win the annual Grizzly Classic in Downey and later defeated Beverly High in the very competitive Milken Tournament the following month.

Led by captains Nicole Newman and Sarah Mankowitz and Coach Ronnie “Flava” Winbush, the team has played only in tournaments so far. The regular season began Jan. 7, but there was no game because the other team didn’t bring enough players.

“We have won two tournaments this year,” said Nicole. “That’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The girls won all four games at the Downey tournament and lost all but one at Milken, coming in seventh. Animo Leadership of Inglewood was the team that forfeited Jan. 7.

Nicole said the Steve Glouberman tournament was the most special, taking place in the new home gym Nov. 12 – 15. It was also the first time in five years the team had appeared without former captain and standout Sigal Spitzer ’15.

“They were our first wins of the season,” she said. “It really established us as a team with our own leaders, and not thinking about who wasn’t there.”

The girls not only earned the first-place banner but won individual awards as well.

Sophomore Loren Edry, power-forward and guard, was MVP, and sophomore and guard Shaya Rosen won the three-point contest.

Modern Orthodox high schools from around the country participated in the tournament, which was named for Shalhevet parent Steve Glouberman z”l, who died last year.

Coach Flava said everyone played well.

“We shot the ball well and we played hard on the defensive side and made a lot of good stops,” Coach Flava said. “The team played well, so we played well, and we got good results.”

The Firehawks played four games over the course of the tournament, and their opponents were Heschel, Berman, and Frisch. They played Heschel twice and beat Frisch to take the championship.

Their first game was at noon on the first day of the tournament, Nov. 12 against the Heschel Heat of New York City. Shalhevet scored in the first 16 seconds and won 46-13.

Later that afternoon they played Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy of Rockville, Md. The girls were unstoppable offensively and defensively and cruised to a 53-30 victory.

Shalhevet’s third game, a semi-final to determine who would play for the championship, was against Heschel on Saturday night. Senior Jake Benyowitz, acting as MC, introduced the lineups and got everyone excited.

There was a full house, and most of the fans were wearing red and black as they cheered, chanted and screamed for the Firehawks. The visiting teams united, with those who were not playing all cheering for the Heat. All of the fans were pumped up by the music that was playing during timeouts and halftime.

Once again it was a breeze for the home team. The Lady Firehawks won 52-37 and headed for the championship match-up, against the Cougars of Frisch High School of Paramus, N.J.

On Sunday at 9:30 a.m., the Firehawks took on the Cougars for the championship. The gym was quiet as it was an early game, and only a handful of people came out.

The reason for the early start was that the Cougars had airline reservations back to New York in the afternoon. But it wasn’t an unusual scene for the Lady Firehawks.

“That’s just woman’s sports,” Nicole said later. “It’s a sad reality.”

The game was broadcast and can still be viewed on The Cube, with Boiling Point staffers Jordan Fields calling the plays and Alec Fields providing color commentary.

The game started quickly, Loren Edry passed to Nicole Newman who passed to Liora Rabizadeh for a layup in the first 15 seconds. The real shining star in the game was Shaya Rosen, who hit three-pointer after three-pointer. She had 13 in the first three games.

The first quarter was close; Shalhevet led 11-8 at the end of it. In the second quarter, Nicole showed great ball handling and shot a beautiful three. Shaya scored four three-pointers and a layup. At the half, Shalhevet was up 38-16.

At the beginning of the third quarter, the team seemed to lose focus and Frisch cut their lead from 22 points to 13, but they were still ahead 49-34 at the end of the 3rd.

In the final quarter, Shalhevet brought its A-game. But Frisch rebounded a lot and improved its defense.

“Our best plays are when we stopped the ball and played good defense,” said Frisch shooting guard Julia Reichel afterwards. “We made sure that their outside shooters weren’t scoring.”

But by the end of the game, it was clear that Shalhevet would win. In the last two minutes, Coach Flava put in the team’s five freshmen – Talia Abel, Lily Drazin, Talia Gill, Eliana Hirschman and Bailey Mendelson – who were playing their very first minutes in competition as Firehawks.

“Going into the tournament we were a little nervous,” said guard Talia Gill. “We had never seen us play against another team and we didn’t know how we were going to be. On the court we acted really united, we made good passes and we made good shots and we proved ourselves.”

The Lady Firehawks won 58-41.

The team was very happy, but there was no crowd to jump on the team because it was so early in the morning. The girls celebrated quietly and spoke to reporters.

Shaya said the team’s practices had made the difference.

“In practices we went over a lot of our plays and we did them correctly, and applied that to the game so it went well,” said Shaya, adding, “I’ve been playing my whole life and it just comes naturally to me, and I just played really well.”

Loren said they worked so well together that she was surprised to win MVP.

‘We bonded on and off the court,” Loren said.

Frisch – also playing early in its season – said the team’s Thursday game against Akiva Hebrew Day School of Detroit, Mich., had been its best. The Cougars won that game 53-7.

“Our first game was our best game, we really proved to ourselves that we can we play as a team,” said Frisch senior Rachel Krause. “It was only our second game we played together and we played with heart and had a huge victory.”

Nicole said the other teams had been strong opponents.

“We got a lot of rebounds which was really good, and we did a lot of ball movement on the top which helped us get a lot of 3-pointers,” said Nicole. “I think we just came in and we really wanted to win and we wanted it more than the other teams. We brought our talents together and pulled it off.”

In Downey, the first two games were easy for the Firehawks. They defeated Saddleback of Santa Ana 50 -14 and crushed Port of Los Angeles of San Pedro, 56-7.

Their final two games were closer. Game 3 was against Buena Park and Shalhevet won 49-22, and the final game, against Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana, was a nailbiter: the Firehawks won, 41-40.

Nicole said the earlier wins might have cost them some victories at Milken.

“I think we were tired coming off of two tournaments,” she said. “These teams were a different caliber team than the ones of the other tournaments. But I think we still played very well.”

At Milken, the team played four games in four days. They lost three — 70-29 against Saugus, 65-56 against Archer School for Girls, which is in Brentwood, and 48-45 against AGBU of Canoga Park. That was a close one, ending with a buzzer beater three-pointer.

The Firehawks did win against Beverly Hills High, 52-45.

Junior Liora Rabizadeh thinks that team chemistry has had a lot to do with the wins so far.

“It was a mixture of the bonding that we did and the chemistry that we built over the weekend on the Shabbaton,” she said. “Everybody played their best, and everyone played together instead of focusing on themselves. We helped each other instead of being independent.”