Building connections through basketball, Hillel Academy alumni, students hit a winner
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Building connections through basketball, Hillel Academy alumni, students hit a winner

Moshe Wasserman of the Boys High School moves past alumnus Daniel Sax on his way to the basket. (Photo by Danny Shaw)
Moshe Wasserman of the Boys High School moves past alumnus Daniel Sax on his way to the basket. (Photo by Danny Shaw)

Alumni and current Boys High School students of Hillel Academy scrimmaged at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center for their annual “Old School vs. New School” benefit.

Regardless of school, however, both teams struggled from the start.

At the end of the low-scoring first quarter (which finished with the BHS up, 11-9), Moshe Wasserman of the BHS led all players with five points.

Wasserman continued his performance by scoring all 11 of the BHS’ second-quarter points, but time benefited the alumni. Despite strong play from Avigdor Felder, Moshe Dovid Luzer and Yosef Cohen-Melamed, the BHS had little answers for their aged opponents.

Armed with a diversified attack, the alumni advanced. Midway through the second quarter, sharpshooter Josh Swedarsky drilled a three-pointer to put the alumni ahead, 17-14. Wasserman countered with a three. But with two minutes remaining in the half, Yochi Naiditch showed glimpses of glory past. On three of the alumni’s four final possessions, the bearded tzitzis-flowing Naiditch drove to the basket — once from the baseline and twice from the top of the key. Each effort resulted in a minimally contested layup.

Entering halftime, up 26-22, the alumni never looked back.

“Overall we’re doing pretty well,” said Alex Sax, coach of the alumni and a Hillel Academy graduate. “I mean, our guys are pretty tired, running full court.”

Any exhaustion seemed to pass, as the alumni pushed the pace again in the third quarter. Eli Biton came off the bench to score five points. Jason Goldwasser and Yoni Ross also contributed, and the alumni closed their 15-point quarter up 41-31.

Although too late, the BHS found a rhythm in the fourth. Jacob Wiesenfeld, of the BHS, scored four of his eight points in the period. Ezra Kraut scored five. Wasserman hit eight foul shots, and eighth-grader Aaron Kraut landed three threes for nine points. The BHS’s balanced fourth-quarter attack offered promise for the burgeoning squad, but against the alumni, that promise remained illusory.

Daniel Sax scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth period. Josh Corcos, at 6 feet 6 inches, dropped eight in the quarter for the alumni. And perhaps as a statement basket, with time expiring, Naiditch pulled up from 30 feet to net a final three-pointer and finish with 17 points.

Although the alumni won 67-58, the chance to play was greatly appreciated by both teams.

“It’s a spectacular opportunity to play basketball, connect with alumni and establish a relationship with previous generations,” said Rabbi Sam Weinberg, principal and Hillel Academy graduate.

“Connecting alumni with kids they know and don’t know, it helps us build the Hillel family,” said Weinberg, who coached the BHS.

Following the game, Sax said that the annual contest fosters fraternity and friendly barbs between players. “It’s fun because they test us with their speed, and it’s a nice rivalry. They’ve been talking a lot so it’s a nice win.”

“They’re a really competitive group of young men, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in the future,” said Corcos, who finished with 12 points.

Naiditch paused and reflected, while on his way to purchase Phil and Bill’s Ice Cream — a locally manufactured product that was sold throughout the game.

“It’s nice to see the next group of guys. It’s great for the family, it’s great for the community. And Phil and Bill’s is always great,” said Naiditch.

In addition to ice cream, pizza was available for purchase.

Alex Sax, who has now coached four alumni teams, praised the event and those involved.

“It’s a nice group of guys. It would be a little better if the alumni were a little more conditioned to run the floor, but they’re very supportive of each other. It’s a nice group to have.”

Upon evaluating those on the court, Sax added, “Our high school team of ‘68 would have beaten the alumni and the Boys High School.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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