VICTORY AND HISTORY: Firehawks girls basketball team wins school’s first-ever state CIF championship
Win is also first time title has gone to a Jewish school
As a nail-biter fourth quarter ended with the Firehawks leading steadily in single digits, fans packing the gym rose to their feet to celebrate the first time in school history that Shalhevet won a state CIF title in any sport.
Broadcast via livestream from the NBA Golden 1 Center arena in Sacramento, the entire student body was in the Shalhevet gym watching cheering for every basket, turnover and rebound as the girls basketball team defeated San Domenico High School 50-46, wrestling the state title from the same team which had defeated them for it a year before.
“I’ve never wanted to win so bad in my entire life, honestly,” said junior Yalee Schwartz at a postgame press conference. “I think every single day I would think about getting back here. This was my biggest goal for the entire year. I just wanted to win, I just wanted to get back.”
Backed by a crowd of about 30 Shalhevet fans in the arena – small enough in comparison to the hundreds of San Domenico fans that Panther fans sang a cheer of “We can’t hear you!” – the girls led through the entire game although at times it was only by a slim margin.
San Domenico is located in San Anselmo, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, much closer to the state capital. At Shalhevet, classes had been canceled from 9:45 to 11:40 a.m. so most of its fans were in the home gym, where the Firehawks had won every game but one in the postseason.
Junior Yalee Schwartz scored 21 points and fellow junior Arielle Grossman scored 18, and Yalee won the game’s sportsmanship award.
As far as anyone could tell, it was also the first time a state CIF basketball title had been won by a Jewish school. Spectrum Sportsnet commentators said live on the air that this was the first time an Orthodox Jewish school has won a CIF State title. The Boiling Point surveyed CIF brackets for the last 18 years and found no Jewish high school in a state championship game.
“Playing on a Jewish team, part of a Jewish school, you’re kind of representing the Jewish community as a whole, not only Shalhevet,” said Arielle at the postgame press conference.
She noted that Shalhevet is one of many Jewish schools throughout the United States.
“So the fact that this is the first Jewish School — last year as the first Jewish school to make it this far, and this year as the first Jewish school to win — I think it shows that we can make a huge impact and like represent the Jewish community as a whole, and I think it’s something to be proud of as a Jew,” said Arielle.
Shalhevet opened the game strong, scoring 16 points in the first quarter, while San Domenico scored five.
In the second quarter, the score tightened as the Panthers scored 13 points and the Firehawks scored 10. At halftime Shalhevet led 26-18.
Shalhevet added 11, while San Domenico scored 14 in the third quarter. Shalhevet led 37-32 going into the fourth.
In the final quarter, San Domenico scored 14 points, but it was not enough to come back against Shalhevet who added an additional 13 points. As the final seconds ticked down the small but steady lead Shalhevet had over San Domenico endured, with the Firehawks ultimately winning 50-46.
The Golden 1 Center is home to the NBA Sacramento Kings, and the game was broadcast live on Spectrum Sportsnet.
Shalhevet and San Domenico played this year in Division 4. Last year the same two teams faced off in Division 5, the Panthers defeating the Firehawks 38-27.
This story won national 2023 Multimedia Sports Story of the Year, Honorable Mention, from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA).