YULA Panthers win 2013 Cooper Invitational


YULA Panthers win 2013 Cooper Invitational


By: Jack Kirschenbaum

After a disappointing 8th place finish in last year’s Cooper Yeshiva High School National Invitational Basketball Tournament in Memphis, Tennessee, the YULA basketball team came into the tournament this year excited for a chance to redeem themselves. As the third seed, the Panthers opened up against Weinbaum Yeshiva High School, a team who they beat by over 30 points at Sarachek last year. Weinbaum started the game strong by going up 8-2, but the Panthers were able to fight back and win the game 67-34. The next matchup for the Panthers was the sixth seeded Haftr Hawks. Haftr kept the game relatively close in the first quarter, but the Panthers went into the half with a ten-point lead. They then extended the lead and won 51-32, thanks to 15 points by YULA senior Menachem Solomon. “We can’t get too confident,” said Menachem after the victory. “We haven’t upset anyone yet. We’ve just beaten the teams we should have.”

On Saturday night, the team faced the Ramaz Rams who were the second seed. The Rams, led by 6″2 shooting guard Jaimie Cappell, had just come off a three point victory over the New Jew Jaguars, and were excited to take on the Panthers. YULA senior Adam Liber hit a three pointer on the team’s first possession, and the team never looked back again. Up 11 points at half time, Coach Eli Hami reminded the boys to keep playing passionately no matter how many points they were winning by. Although the Hawks cut the lead to 5 points in the third quarter, after a few key layups by seior JoJo Himmelman, YULA had a double digit lead with about a minute remaining in the game. Senior Ariel Sokol sealed the victory with some free-throws to end the game as YULA won 49-39. Adam Liber and Menachem Solomon each led the team with 12 points. “Our scoring is always going to be balanced because of how deep our team is,” said Liber after the victory.

In the other semi-final game, the North Shore Stars, who were seeded 4th, upset the Chicagoland Tigers, who were the overall number one seed. That meant that the YULA Panthers would be wearing their home jerseys against North Shore the following day. “YULA’s a good team, but I think we’ll end up as the champions,” predicted North Shore’s point guard Avery Lubin before the game started. YULA started the game off with a bang as Adam Liber sunk a three pointer, but Lubin matched him with a three of his own on the other end. From then on, Northshore had a really tough time stopping the Panthers as YULA jumped to a 14-4 lead. Northshore tried throwing different defensive zones at the Panthers, but YULA figured all of them out. Most of their first half possessions ended with layups from either Ariel Sokol or Daniel Tzion. In the second half, Northshore tried to guard the Panthers with man-to-man defense, but their center, Cody Cohen, had no chance guarding JoJo Himmelman. Himmelman dominated him in the post the entire second half. YULA was up 51-37 and led by 16 points from JoJo Himmelman. The 14-point victory was the largest in a championship game in Cooper tournament history! After the game, Menachem Solomon was named to the tournaments 1st team, Ariel Sokol was named an All Star, and JoJo Himmelman was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

Yashar Koach Panthers!