The Red and Dr. Murray’s Israel Basketball League reaches the Final Four this weekend, after intense down-to-the-wire finishes left only Ashreinu, Lobos, Duvdevan and City of Gold remaining, in the quest for the Red Auerbach Championship Trophy.
Lobos had its hands full in its ante-penultimate-round matchup with KIVA, which used a high-intensity full-court press to stymie the vaunted veteran, before Lobos squeaked by, 45-42.
That game was downright relaxing compared to the double-overtime nail-biter between top-seeded City of Gold and BMT Alumni. Yisrael Feld led City with 16 points, but the always dangerous BMT nearly knocked out the defending champ, and only a pair of free throws with 3 seconds remaining in the second extension iced the game, 44-40.
The third contest provided no relief for the faint of heart, as Ashreinu pulled off a stunning upset of the number two seed, OJ. Adam Schreiber scored 11 points for Ashreinu in a balanced attack, Zach Dicker posted 10, and an impressive team defensive effort stopped the league’s most prolific scoring attack, Ashreinu advancing to the Final Four in a 31-29 defensive masterpiece.
In the last quarterfinal, Duvdevan jumped out to an early lead over Flint Tropics, with quick buckets from Yisrael Solomon, Eitan Spitzer and Zach Reich. Great ball movement helped grow the lead to double digits. Flint Tropics launched a counteroffensive, featuring a flurry of points by Joe Klein, but Duvdevan’s Yossi Halpert scored the last six points of the half, extending the lead to 17.
Needing lots of scoring in a hurry, Flint Tropics went to the long ball, and successful treys by Zev Lindenbaum helped cut the deficit to 10, with eight minutes remaining.
It looked likely to shrink further, as the Tropics came up with a steal and shot out on a fast break. But in one stunning move, the potential comeback was emphatically cut short, as Mendel Valensi came from behind to make a block one spectator described as “LeBron-like.”
Thus energized, Duvdevan was able to seal the deal, moving up to the semifinals with a 54-37 final score.