Varsity Boys’ Basketball resumed their season following winter break and were faced with a daunting task: go on the road to face two league opponents in the span of three days.
On Monday, the Lions traveled to Doral to play Divine Savior Academy, a game that was originally scheduled as a home game for the Lions but had to be played at DSA due to issues on campus. As a result, the Lions lost the chance to face a league rival on their home court and were forced to play on the road at Divine Savior for a second time this season.
The game panned out much like the first meeting between the two squads. The Lions matchup-zone defense confused Divine Savior in the first quarter, with the Lions not allowing any easy half court offense.
The Lions had a quick start offensively, as they executed the game plan to pound the ball inside against a shorter DSA starting lineup. Senior Samuel Taieb had several early layups, and got to the free throw line early and often. The first quarter ended with the game all squared at 14-14.
And much like the first meeting, the game was back and forth until the final few minutes of the first half. The Lions led 20-18 with around 5 minutes to play in the opening half, however DSA responded with a 13-2 run to close out the half, heading into the locker room with a 31-22 halftime lead.
While Coach Craig Mankoff stressed the importance of the first two minutes of the second half and their impact on the rest of the game, the Lions failed to respond, as DSA extended their lead to as much as 16 points.
The Lions found themselves trying to claw their way back in the third and fourth quarters, but a combination of poorly-executed fastbreaks and a fast-paced DSA offense proved too much to overcome. The Lions fell to Divine Savior 70-58.
On Wednesday night, the Lions took yet another long road trip to face Palmer Trinity in a battle of defensive minded squads and coaches. Scheck Hillel and Palmer Trinity have oddly similar play styles, with an emphasis on solid, disciplined defense and finding ways to get touches to their respective big men on offense.
The mirroring play styles revealed themselves early and often, with no team breaking away. Every possession and score was vital as both defenses proved resilient.
Both teams realized early that this would be a low-scoring affair, with the Lions leading just 10-6 after the first quarter.
It was more of the same in the second quarter– both teams stopping the opposing offense with ease. The Lions managed to score just 2 points the rest of the half, and found themselves trailing 14-12 after Palmer Trinity converted a crucial breakaway layup as the clock expired.
Both teams came out of the locker room with the notion that more shots would fall in the second half. They were wrong. The third quarter was a back and forth, defensive battle and every score meant more and more in determining the outcome of the game. A couple three pointers by senior guards Alan Berkman and Myles Gilbert found their way through the net, but the Falcons of Palmer Trinity seemed to always have an answer at the other end.
Palmer Trinity, midway through the second half, switched to a purely 2-3 zone defense, packing it in and not allowing the Lions’ big men, Taieb and sophomore Daniel Abbo, to establish position on the low post. The Falcons forced Berkman and Gilbert to hit open shots, and they rarely found the bottom of the net.
The Lions haven’t been the best shooting team this season, and it showed when the Falcons dared them to hit outside shots. With around two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Palmer Trinity led 27-22 and seemed to have all the momentum.
The Lions were scrambling for open looks, and one of Berkman’s threes finally dropped, bringing the Lions within two. However, the Falcons responded with a score of their own and went back up four, 29-25.
On a wild offensive possession, a three pointer from senior point guard Saul Birmaher fell, and the Lions were down 29-28 with about 20 seconds on the clock.
Aboo committed an intentional foul, his third of the game, sending Palmer Trinity’s leading scorer, Waldman, to the free throw line for a one-and-one with 2.6 seconds remaining. Waldman missed the first free throw, but an unlucky bounce caused the ball to spring off the back iron and land right back into Waldman’s hands, who was able to run out the clock.
Palmer Trinity defeated Scheck Hillel for a fourth year in a row, with a final score of 29-28, by far the Lions’ lowest scoring outing of the season.
Coach Mankoff has repeatedly mentioned that if the Lions can hold opponents under 40 points for the game, then they’ll have a sizeable shot at winning the game, but the shots have to fall as well. And they didn’t on Wednesday night.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Lions next week, as they travel to Coconut Grove to face undefeated Ransom Everglades on Tuesday and host Miami Country Day on Wednesday at 7:00pm, where the Lions’ six seniors will be honored before tip-off on Senior Night.