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Four Storylines from Sarachek

The 2011 edition (and 20th annual) Red Sarachek Tournament kicked off Thursday, March 24th, and for the next five days the talk around campus shifted focus to the plays features on the MSAC court. In case you missed it, here are four of the storylines that went on in this year's tournament:

Newcomer SAR Shuts Down the Powerful West Coast. When the seedings for the tournament came out, LA high schools accounted for two of the top three seeds. Valley Torah entered the tourney ranked #1 and YULA came in as the #3 seed. Anyone who followed last year's tournament will find it hard to forget the matchup between these two sides, when Valley erased a late eight point deficit with just seconds on the clock before YULA won it on a buzzer beater. Valley had shown their hunger back home, taking their league's championship, but this year YULA wasn't far behind, playing very good basketball during the season and making it all the way to the Tier 1 championship game. Aaron Liberman, a seasoned veteran standing at 6 foot 9, led first-ranked Valley to the Tier 1 semis this year with a hook shot from last year that once again had everyone in the stands mesmerized. Ultimately, though, neither team could make it past the #4 ranked SAR Sting, which, in its first Sarachek appearance, plowed through Frisch and both LA teams on the way to a championship.

Return of the Hoosiers. Ida Crown entered last year's tournament with a chip on its shoulder after winning the championship in 2008, only to be left out of Sarachek altogether in 2009. The Aces felt that they should have been given a chance to defend their title. The disappointment only grew with a Tier I qualifying loss on opening day last year. Ida Crown was unable to walk the walk after talking the talk for almost two years. This year was their chance to recapture the gold, though they entered the tournament ranked #8. The Aces avoided what many considered to be the tougher opponents from New York and met Hillel – Miami in a Tier I qualifier on opening day. Hillel – Miami is not a team to be taken lightly, but Ida came out strong in their first game with a win. Though the Aces next found themselves faced with the #1 ranked Valley Torah, a match few predicted they could win, they put in another strong game and kept it closer than many skeptics thought they would, losing by six. After another loss to Frisch, the Aces ended their Sarachek run with a win over Maimonides, finally giving their sizable fan base a reason to cheer.

Golden Feld. A popular story floating around campus (and on the yu website) this year was Yisroel Feld's gold medal win in Australia for the United States in the Maccabee games. Feld, of MTA, has also been having an amazing season back home. However, he has, at times, needed to carry his team on his shoulders. In Australia, Feld was surrounded by other "all stars" with whom he could share the ball and had a lineup of five players on the court who were a constant problem for any defense. At MTA, Feld has had to do a lot of the work himself. This seemed to be the case again this year. Feld, by all accounts, was golden in the tournament, leading all scorers in both point total (107) and points-per-game (35.7), but MTA overall looked its #6 ranking. After a huge 27-point win over Yavneh, MTA fell to longtime nemesis YULA, despite a final surge by Feld, whose three three-pointers in under a minute nearly overcame YULA's twelve-point lead.

New to Town, But Not Out-of-Town. Last year's final was an all New York affair, between HANC and HAFTR, with HAFTR coming out on top. With two of the top three seeds coming from outside of New York, many expected to see an all out-of-town match-up this year, likely featuring both LA teams. Could an out-of-town school win for the first time since Ida Crown did it in 2008? As it turned out: no. SAR, the Riverdale school that graduated its first class in 2007, was this year's surprise champion, featuring an all-around strong lineup that included big-man Zach Breslaw's rebounds and blocks, David Wiener and Jonny Nulman's clutch shooting, and point guard Zach Dicker's flawless play that earned him the MVP award. SAR, with a win in its first-ever Saracheck appearance, has set the bar high for itself, leaving many to wonder: will this new powerhouse be making a return next year?