By: Aaron Szydlo  | 

The Meaning of Sarachek

What is Sarachek? It is an annual basketball tournament that takes place in March; bringing Jewish high schools from all over the country to Yeshiva University from Thursday through Monday.  Excitement roars throughout the country as the tournament approaches, and this year had much to be excited about.

When the tournament began Thursday March 10, angst and jitters filled the stomachs of the players. JJ Zakheim, a junior guard from Frisch said, “Playing in front of all the people is energizing and exciting. It feels like everyone’s eyes are on you whenever you are on the court.”

Edan Sokol, a junior forward from Shalhevet stated, “Playing in front of all of those people is nerve racking, but once the game starts you just get into the flow of things and forget about the crowd.” The nerves showed, as the opening games featured lots of sloppy play. However, as the teams settled in and the tournament hit full stride, the players seemed to find their groove.

Thursday’s action showed remarkable skill and athletic ability, as numerous players, including Andrew Langer of Frisch and Ethan Lasko of Yeshiva High School, scored over 30 points. As the players put on tremendous performances, the fans at the games and watching via Macs Live got their money’s worth.

Daniel Lasko (Syms ‘18), cousin of Yeshiva’s Lasko, posited, “It is cool to watch my younger cousin play in the same tournament I did only a few years ago. Especially considering he put up 36 points in the first game.”

As Thursday wrapped up, the players relaxed and prepared for Friday’s games.

As Friday came around the heat of the competition turned up. The day featured a series of close games, with six out of eight decided by less than 10 points. Several games came down to the closing seconds, testing the mental toughness of the high school athletes. Yet, whether players won or lost on Friday, the tournament seemed to have something for everyone, as Shabbos was something they would cherish for the remainder of their lives.

The players had live speakers, large assortments of food, and played competitive games of jeopardy versus one another. However, the programing, food, and entertainment on the shabbaton were only an appetizer for the camaraderie that took place. Sokol commented, “It is good to have a short break from playing ball. It is also really fun to meet kids from all over the country that I would never had met otherwise.” Perhaps more important than the basketball that goes on is the bond Sarachek builds between players.

Play resumed Saturday night with two games, while the majority of the remaining games, including the Tier I and Tier II semifinals, were played on Sunday. Fortunately for the crowds watching, the teams did not disappoint. Many exciting games took place, including a nail-biting one-point victory by the favorite DRS Wildcats over the YULA Panthers to propel them into the Tier I finals. The buzzer beater by the RASG Warriors to defeat the IDA Crown Aces, boosted them to the Tier II finals and topped off a day of close games and down-to-the-wire finishes.   This exciting play received a good deal of internet fame, and even appeared on the local news

The final games of the tournament took place on Monday. In the Tier 1 Championship,  Gabriel Leifer and the heavily favored DRS Wildcats, looked to add another victory to their perfect season against the Shalhevet Firehawks. In the first half, the Firehawks contained Leifer and the Wildcats, keeping the game tied at 13 going into the break. However, an explosion in the second half by Leifer and DRS proved to be too much for Shalhevet. As the final buzzer sounded, DRS won 47-32, adding to their perfect record of 32-0. Yoel Schreier, former DRS player and current YU student (Syms 18), said, “I am overcome with joy to the team bring another title home to DRS.”

Commenting on what the tournament means for the players, former player for YULA, and current coach of Kohelet, Josh Friedman said, “Sarachek is an amazing thing because it broadens the local teams’ basketball seasons and adds meaning to the seasons of the teams from across the country. In doing so, it creates this incredible atmosphere that brings kids together. I want my players to have the same incredible experience I had. To compete with the best in the country.” The tournament teaches the players about much more than basketball.

For the Sarachek tournament, players travel in from all over the country to compete against other teams. However, what lasts longer than the wins, are the friendships and bonds that are formed over the extended weekend. Isaac Laifer, junior guard from Frisch offered his opinion on Sarachek, “Playing against everyone is obviously very fun, but I think making new friends is the coolest part about the tournament.” Players and fans cannot wait to see what Sarachek has in store for them next year.