Backed by cheering crowd, Firehawk girls defeat Berman Cougars to win their second Glouberman championship

Boys team falls to surging TABC in final; coach laments loss of alumni

At around 11 o’clock Saturday night, the frenzied cheers of the home crowd swept through a packed gym as the Shalhevet Firehawk girls team emerged with its second championship in the school’s annual Steve Glouberman Basketball Tournament. 

Two hours later, the Firehawk boys fell short, losing their championship game, and will have to try again next year. 

But school officials considered the tournament a success for both teams — and for the tournament itself, which had resumed with 18 teams and 245 players representing 11 Jewish high schools from around the U.S. —  after being canceled last fall due to Covid and replaced by an informal non-team game event in May.

AGRESSIVE: Senior Netanel Zur drives to the basket with three Berman Cougars guarding him tightly in the boys quarterfinals game on Friday.
(BP Photo by Barbara Seruya)

 There were 39 games in all, about half in the Shalhevet gym and half played at Pan Pacific Park nearby.

This year’s Glouberman tournament — the seventh — started Wednesday, Nov. 3, and ended in the early hours of Sunday morning Nov. 7, just as Daylight Savings Time ended, giving exhausted athletes and fans picked up an extra hour of sleep from turning their clocks back.

The Firehawks girls won decisively in all five games, two of them against the Berman Academy Cougars of Rockville, Md.. They won game one 71-64 against Berman, then faced the Cougars again in the championship, game 5, which they won 67-43.

In between, they won game two 75-50 against Hebrew Academy of Miami Beach, Fla., game three, the quarterfinals, 60-47 against Ramaz of New York City, and game four, the semifinal, 51-23 against their crosstown rival YULA from L.A.

The Firehawk boys did almost as well, winning four games and losing one, the championship, when they fell to the TABC Storm of Teaneck, N.J., by a score of 75-51. 

“To go nine-and-one in that tournament is awesome,” said Shalhevet Coach Ryan Coleman, totaling up the two teams’ achievements. “I would have told you that the girls were going to win the championship, and I would’ve told you that I thought the boys would be lucky to be playing on Saturday night.”

The crowd improves everyone’s game. Even though it makes you nervous, it hypes you up.

— Yalee Schwartz, lead Firehawk scorer in the championship game

Coach Coleman, who runs both the boys and girls teams, said the leadership on the girls team was “far superior to that on the boys team.” 

Girls team co-captain Talia Tizabi said that much of the credit should go to the coaches, Coleman and Andrew Schultz.

“The success came from the drive and commitment of the team, but also of the coaches,” said Talia, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player (MVP). “Ryan said at the beginning of the year that we could win this tournament, but only if we are 100 percent all in.”


The girls championship game was a nail-biting contest that was close from the start. The first quarter featured the lead going back and forth, ending with an 18-11 lead for the Firehawks. However, that lead didn’t last long with the Cougars ahead 30-25 after four minutes of the second. 

The Firehawks were able to regroup and ended the half with a 35-32 lead.  For the remainder of the game, they continued to push ahead and the Cougars weren’t able to draw closer.

Last year we had the best [boys] team in the history of our school, and … it’s gonna take a while to try to figure out how to play without those guys.

— Firehawks Coach Ryan Coleman

Lead scorers for the Firehawks were Yalee Schwartz with 22 points and Talia Tizabi with 19. The Berman Cougars were led by Jenny Kagan with 25 and Maya August with 10.  Yalee and fellow sophomore Arielle Grossman were named to the girls all-tournament team.

Missing from the lineup were two starters, junior Talia Tibi and team co-captain Jessica Melamed, who missed both the championship and the semi-final.  Both had been injured in the quarterfinal game against Ramaz, Tibi with a dislocated knee cap and torn ligaments and Jessica with a sprained knee. 

Tibi, who has been on the team since freshman year, said in a text message that she plans on making a return in five to six weeks, missing approximately the first month of the CIF season which starts next week. She also said that Jessica should be back in action in half that time. 

“Jessica [is] a great leader and really she is our glue,” said Coach Coleman. “To lose her and Talia Tibi, who is our most dynamic player and playmaker, is really difficult. But I talked to the team and we need to have that next-man-up mentality.” 

It was the second Glouberman championship for the girls’ team. The first was in 2016, at the very first Glouberman Basketball Tournament.

Talia Tizabi said the fans had helped push them to the win.

“I rewatched the footage from previous games,” said Talia in an interview Sunday, “and every time I look back, I see teachers, students, faculty, custodians, just everyone cheering us on. And it just makes me realize how special this community is.”


Meanwhile, the Firehawk boys had strong showings in their first four games, winning game one 63-39 against Yeshivah of Flatbush from Brooklyn, N.Y., game two 67-41 against Hebrew Academy from Miami Beach, Fla., game three, the quarterfinal, 53-44 against Berman Hebrew Academy from Rockville, Md., and game four, the semifinal, against Ramaz of New York City, 56-47. 

The structure of the Glouberman tournament puts the boys semifinal and championship both on the same night, Saturday night. That meant both the Firehawks and TABC played at 8 pm in the semifinals, when TABC faced Frisch at Pan Pacific Park and Shalhevet defeated Ramaz in the school gym.

It was after 11 p.m. when they played against each other. The game did not end until approximately 1 a.m.

The Firehawks only led TABC for one minute and 20 seconds in the entire game, which was during the game’s opening minute. After that, the Storm’s offense exploded, scoring 75 points —  the second-most points scored in a game in the tournament. 

Team co-captain Avi Halpert was Shalhevet’s high scorer with 26, even though he didn’t play much in the first half due to being in early foul trouble. He had three fouls early in the game, and when a player hits five fouls they are fouled out and can’t play for the remainder of the game.

The team ended with 51 points total, meaning Halpert scored more than half of the points. He was also named to the boys all-tournament team.

Coach Coleman said that fatigue might have played a factor in the boys falling short in the championship, but he didn’t consider it a valid excuse as TABC had the same disadvantage.  

He attributed the loss more to last year’s stars, Ze’ev Remer and Jacob Pofsky, having graduated.

“We have a lot of holes to replace from last year’s team,” said Coach Coleman in an interview on Monday. “You know last year we had the best team in the history of our school, and to lose so many of those players who were so instrumental in what we did, it’s gonna take a while to try to figure out how to play without those guys.”

Avi Halpert said the team has areas for improvement. 

“We just had no energy in the team, and there was just a lack of confidence,” said Avi in a voice message to the Boiling Point. 

TABC Head Coach Oz Cross said in a postgame interview that he really enjoyed attending the tournament and thought his team played well. The TABC Storm didn’t lose a single game, going 5 and 0. 

“I think we got better every game as a team, and I think our defense — we really identified that we could be a really good defensive team,” said Coach Cross. “We want to be the best defensive team in the country if that’s possible, so I don’t know if we are there yet but we are getting there.” 

There were large crowds of fans for all of the Firehawks’ games, both boys and girls, and after the girls championship win Coach Coleman thanked the Shalhevet fans in a short speech.

CHAMPIONS: The girls Firehawks posed with the winning banner, joined by alumna Hilla Lasry ‘21 who was unable to play in Glouberman last year due to the pandemic. (BP Photo by Eli Weiss)

“The support from the school, the administration, the community for our basketball program is overwhelming,” said Coach Coleman. 

“There is a zero chance that the girls would have won this tournament or that the boys would have had the success they did had it not been for our crowd.” 

Sophomore Yalee Schwartz, who scored 22 points in the championship game, agreed.

“The crowd improves everyone’s game,” said Yalee. “Even though it makes you nervous, it hypes you up.” 

And the feeling seemed mutual, as fans were happy to have contributed.

“The experience was really exhilarating being a fan during Glouberman,” said sophomore Rami Melmed, who attended all Firehawk games throughout the tournament. “There was an electric feeling all around school, even not during the games, that kind of just made me proud to be a Firehawk.”


Next for Shalhevet’s basketball teams is the official California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) season, with the girls’ first game Nov. 15 against Louisville High School of Woodland Hills and the boys’ set for Nov. 17 against Price High School of South Central L.A.

Coach Coleman is looking to continue winning with the girls team and bounce back with the boys. 

“I’m really going to challenge the girls in CIF this year,” said Coach Coleman. “We are really going to play some great teams and we are gonna take our lumps but that’s gonna make us better come postseason and we will be ready to make a deep run in the CIF playoffs.” 

Last year’s boys team went deep in the CIF playoffs but lost in the state championship to Bonita Vista High School 77-71.

Coach Coleman said that it is important for this year’s team to come mentally prepared to all games — something he said they didn’t do during Glouberman.

“I was a little bit disappointed throughout the tournament in the lack of sense of urgency and just drive, the boys team in particular,” said Coach Coleman. “We have a target on our back, and if we don’t match the intensity of our opponents, then you’re gonna see a lot of games like we did on Saturday night.” 

Talia Tizabi said the girls’ team also has more work to do. 

“We have to use this as a stepping stone,” said Talia.  “It’s nowhere near the end. It’s just the beginning.”