In new YULA gym, Firehawks topple Panthers with buzzer-beating shot


BP Photo by Ashley Botnick

WINNERS: No. 2 Ze’ev Remer aims for the basket during the close game between the Firehawks and the Panthers Dec. 20. At the end of the fourth quarter, it was Ze’ev who made the game-winning shot, from that same spot on the court.

By Alex Rubel, Caleb Fishman, and Adam Tizabi

It was the shortest day of the year but a long road to victory Thursday night for the Shalhevet Firehawks, who defeated the rival YULA Panthers by two points in the final seconds of a game that offered highs and lows for fans of both sides.

Down by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, the Firehawk varsity team staged a thrilling comeback to beat Panthers 51 to 49 in YULA’s brand-new Samson Center gym, in front of packed stands with well over 400 fans in attendance.

The varsity game took place at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, following the Firehawk junior varsity team’s defeat 53-42. The JV team lost control of the game in the early minutes and was unable to gain momentum.

Initially, it was a similar story for the varsity team, which struggled to make crucial shots and trailed YULA for much of the game. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Panthers led 34-27.

But the Firehawks caught fire, managing to tie the game with five minutes left. An offensive foul against the Panthers gave Shalhevet the ball with about 15 seconds left and the score tied at 49 each.

And then, with about three seconds left on the clock, sophomore guard Ze’ev Remer hauled up an off-balance shot, hoping to draw a foul that would take him to the free-throw line. Ze’ev fell backward to the floor, but the shot was money, and the astounded Firehawk crowd rushed onto the court to celebrate with the victorious team.

“The play broke down and I had the ball with three seconds left,” Ze’ev said after the game. “I decided to go to the basket and try to draw a foul, but I didn’t get fouled so I just put the ball up and it went in.”

Firehawk players said they were fortunate just to have won the game, despite what they called a poor performance.

“We played badly, but we still stuck it out with Ze’ev’s big play, [Asher] Dauer’s huge free throws, and our defense,” said Firehawk guard Zack Muller, who along with forward Asher was named co-MVP’s of the 4th Annual Steve Glouberman Tournament at Shalhevet last month. Zack scored nine points Thursday night.

Games between the Firehawks and Panthers, cross-town rivals with a long history of competition, are always fierce and competitive. This game was no exception, with both teams giving it their all until the final buzzer.

“There’s always a different feeling in the atmosphere when we play against YULA,” said Asher, who led the team with 15 points.

YULA Panthers Head Coach Vince Oliver had kind words for the Firehawk team, even though they had beaten the Panthers at their first matchup in the new gym.

“There was an unbelievable atmosphere with both teams’ pride and energy,” Coach Oliver said in an interview after the game. “But that Shalhevet team is very well coached, and that was a heck of a shot at the end.”

Coach Oliver was referring to the Firehawk Head Coach Ryan Coleman, who won the Jewish Hoops America Coach of the Year award for the 2017-18 season. Coach Coleman agreed about the emotion of the night.

“These kids grow up together, playing against each other, so I think the rivalry is never going to change,” said Coach Coleman. “There’s a lot of passion and emotion involved in the game, and that’s what evens out the playing field every time we play.”

Despite the intensity of their rivalry, about 75 fans from both teams came together to daven Maariv, the evening prayer, during halftime in the adjacent Beit Midrash.


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VICTORY: Ze’ev Remer makes winning shot as Firehawks beat the Panthers with a #score of 51 – 49.

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“It was beautiful, and it shows that we’re really all on the same team,” said YULA Boys Head of School Rabbi Arye Sufrin in an interview after the game.

Still, Thursday night’s games launched a new era of the rivalry as the first contests on YULA’s brand-new court. Construction of the school’s new gym, complete with yellow and black streaks representing YULA school colors, finished last summer.

As the action unfolded, both teams’ crowds cheered on their players, and at times competed in their own battle over cheers. The Panther gym seats about 415, with four sections of bleachers each with five rows, according to Rabbi Sufrin. By comparison, the Shalhevet gym seats roughly 250.

About 150 Firehawk fans had snagged tickets — more were still trying to get them as the game began — and red-clad students, teachers and parents filled in the bleachers on one side of the court while Panther fans in black and yellow sat on the other. Unlike the Shalhevet bleachers, YULA’s are set back about five feet from the basketball court on each side.

Shalhevet students, faculty, and parents had to reserve tickets for $7 on Schoology on a first come, first serve basis. Rabbi Sufrin said that selling tickets in advance would allow the YULA gym to be filled to capacity while preventing an overflow crowd in advance.

He also said that students at YULA boys, parents of players, and staff were admitted for free.

“This procedure was thought out and consistent with schools we consulted with, including Shalhevet,” Rabbi Sufrin said.

Shalhevet’s Director of Student Activities Ms. Ilana Wilner said that YULA was reasonable with the ticket allotment. She said that a similar ratio of tickets — 110 out of a capacity of 250 — was given to Panther fans for the opening night of the Fourth Annual Steve Glouberman Basketball Tournament on Oct. 31, when the Firehawk girls team took on the Panther girls.

However, Firehawk fans had to buy tickets to enter the Panther gym Thursday night, whereas Panther fans could enter the Shalhevet gym for free on Glouberman opening night.

“They want people to feel responsibility to show up so they don’t have an empty gym,” Ms. Wilner said.

Thursday’s game was the first Shalhevet vs. YULA boys matchup since last year’s Red Sarachek Tournament in March, when the Firehawks beat the Panthers 55-38 in the quarterfinals.

Players and coaches on both sides agreed that defense was critical to being competitive this time.

“It was a defensive battle, everyone was really organized defensively,” said YULA forward Albert Fallas, who scored eight points for the Panthers.

Albert also said the game’s result wasn’t an upset, even with the Panthers’ home court advantage. The Firehawks were ranked #1 by going into the 2018-19 season.

“I think they were definitely the favorites, and they deserve to be the favorites,” Albert said. “But I thought we put up a good fight.”


There’s a lot of passion and emotion involved in the game, and that’s what evens out the playing field every time we play.

— Ryan Coleman, Athletic Supervisor

The fight lasted the whole game. After a brief Firehawk surge to start the game, the first quarter gradually turned defensive, and the Firehawks held a three-point advantage, 12-9, going into the second quarter.

But midway through the second quarter, the momentum switched to the Panthers, who started to control the game’s tempo. Led by Panther guard Nikki Schlanger’s two consecutive three-pointers, the Panthers outscored the Firehawks by eight, and went into halftime with a five-point lead.

In the second half, the game became increasingly tense and physical. Several charging and blocking fouls were called by officials — most against the Firehawks — and some Shalhevet fans voiced their frustration from the crowd.

But Zack Muller said that the questionable officiating should have no impact on Firehawk play.

“We can’t blame anything on the refs,” said Zack. “The refs don’t decide games, we decide them.”

Down by nine at the start of the fourth quarter, Shalhevet started to take control of the game and slowly but surely cut the deficit.

Firehawk guard Jeremy Ashegian drained a three with five minutes left in the quarter, tying the game at 44 apiece.

Momentum briefly appeared to shift back to the Panthers, but only for a moment. With 50 seconds left in the game, Zack Muller hit a clutch three from beyond the arc, putting the Firehawks a two-pointer away from tying, with the Panthers still leading 49-47.

Then, Asher Dauer was fouled. He made both of his free throws, tying the game at 49 each, with just seconds left in regulation.

The Firehawks were given the ball after an offensive foul by the Panthers. And that was when Ze’ev Remer scored the game-winner to secure the comeback victory.

“I felt a sense of relief after making the shot,” Ze’ev said.

According to, the Panthers are now 13-5 after the loss, while the Firehawks’ record improved to 10-3.

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