By: Chana Weinberg  | 

Macs Propel Themselves to the NCAA Division III Tournament with Defeat of Purchase Panthers in Skyline Championship

The unstoppable Yeshiva University Maccabees men’s basketball team defeated the SUNY Purchase Panthers in the Skyline Conference championship game on Sunday, March 1, by the score of 86-74. The Macs, who are undefeated in conference play for the first time in program history, clinched a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament for the second time in university history. The Macs have now won 27 games this season, the most in Division III.

The selection show for the DIII tournament, at which the Macs’ tournament opponent and the game’s location will be released, will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2. The tournament begins on March 6.

Gabriel Leifer (SSSB ‘21) was named Most Outstanding Player, finishing the game with a triple-double, scoring 16 points, pulling a career-high 24 rebounds and dishing out 12 assists. Reflecting on the win, the three-time Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association (MBWA) player of the week said, “It means a lot, but we have a lot of unfinished business in the tournament.” 

While Leifer continued his season-long dominance on the glass, Ryan Turell (SSSB ‘22) put on another show with his offensive consistency and efficiency as he led the team with 29 points on 50% shooting from the field. Turell averaged 22 points a game during the regular season. 

“It was just a great effort. It was just an amazing experience,” said Turell after the win. “The crowd was awesome. When we got down early they were always with us, so hats off to them.”

Continuing his breakout was Eitan Halpert (SSSB ‘21) who had 19 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the field and 3-5 shooting from behind the arc. But it was his defense that stood out during the conference clinching win as he constantly beat the ball down the court on defense. The box score indicated that he had one block and two steals.

“I am so happy for our guys,” said Athletics Director Joe Bednarsh. “They worked really hard all year to get here and deserve this honor. I’m excited to see where they’re going for the tournament and hope we get to host it here! These are amazing kids and amazing players and I’m so proud of them and our coaching staff.”

Besides being the longest active streak in DIII, the Macs' 27 straight wins is the longest win streak in YU history, surpassing the 17-game win streak of the 2018-19 season. Additionally, the Macs received national recognition as they became the first YU team in history to be named to the Division Three top 25 ranking put out by, finishing the season at number 15. The Macs are also ranked second in the NCAA Division III Atlantic Region, the highest ranking in program history.

Correction: Ryan Turell scored 29 points; Eitan Halpert shot 3-5 from behind the arc.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated for clarity.

Photo Caption: The men’s basketball team is the Skyline Conference Champion for the second time in YU history.
Photo Credit: The Commentator