After dropping their first two games of the season, the Flatbush Girls Varsity Basketball team put together a string of victories unparalleled in school history, winning every single contest along the way, only faltering in their ultimate test – the MYHSAL Finals – where they came up against an opponent of equal merit. The Falcons were up to the challenge on Wednesday night (3/8) on the main court at the Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, NJ, but after engineering an incredible comeback in rebounding from a 17-point deficit to take a 7-point lead in the fourth quarter, their opponents from SAR proved to be even more resilient, passing the Falcons in the waning moments of the game to crush the dreams of the Flatbush Varsity Girls, as the Sting took the MYHSAL Championship back to Riverdale, NY, by the final score of 57-53.
The air of celebration filled the arena as the Flatbush hoopsters and their fans entered the TABC gym, the Girls JV Championship have just come to its conclusion. The Flatbush Falcons, under the guidance of head a coach Rozan Mizrahi and her Assistants, Jon Gabriel and Sylvia Franco, went through their customary warmups with the same ease of purpose they brought to every one of their games, and we’re ready to play one last game in the 2016-17 season. the players were introduced, and the National Anthems (of Israel and the USA) were played. It was now time for the main event. It would be for all the marbles, with the dangerous Sting the last thing between these Falcons and that elusive championship.
SAR opened up by pressing their inside height advantage for the first points of the game, while Flatbush missed on its first four shots (on two possessions due to strong offensive rebounding). Flatbush continued to struggle offensively, while SAR soon fired in a three for a 7-0 lead with half the period gone. It took drawing a foul on a drive to the hoop by Junior Marlene Levy before her one free throw got the Falcons on the board. Unfortunately, the Falcons continued to be astonishingly cold on offense, while SAR was cooking from outside. When the Sting hit again from deep, the score was 13-1 with 2:32 left in quarter number one. It took until over 7 minutes were gone before the Falcons got their first field goal, courtesy of their Senior Co-Captain and stalwart performer Sarah Horowitz. But it was a very late start, and at the end of the opening quarter of play, SAR had built a commanding 15-4 lead.
The second quarter saw Flatbush get off to a good start with a steal by Reserve Carolyn Kassin soon followed by another one by Horowitz, but there were no points to show for it. Three offensive possessions, no points, and the next score was another Sting three for an 18-4 lead. Horowitz finally hit on a drive, but again SAR answered immediately. A short time later, Flatbush began to show its normal intensity, and when Marlene Levy and Samantha Chabot scored, the lead was down to 10 (20-10,) and SAR called timeout to regroup and to break the newfound Flatbush rhythm. It worked as they pounded the next possession inside, yet FB seemed to be in a groove. A Chabot 3 got the lead down to 9. It was short lived, though, as SAR drilled another three in response. With the period coming to a close, FB began to swing the momentum, and when Horowitz came up with a big steal then led a breaking Kassin to the basket, Kassin sprinted to the basket and hit a lay in that dropped through after taking a full tour of the rim just before the end of the half. 16 minutes of ball were now in the books, and Flatbush faced a daunting, but possible, task, trailing the Sting by the score of 30-19, but seemingly holding the momentum for the first time all night.
Yet, the momentum immediately swung back to the Sting. A Flatbush turnover and two SAR free throws was not the start to the second half the Falcons were looking for. Nor were two more inside Sting hoops. But an Esther Harary corner three was certainly helpful. Again Flatbush hit the boards, and a pair of Judy Blanka freebies got the deficit back to 12, 36-24. Levy was the next beneficiary of quality rebounding, scoring on a drive that cut the lead down to 10 with 4:30 left in quarter three.
The Flatbush faithful who packed more than half of the bleachers, were now on their feet, chanting “Defense, Defense” as the Flatbush “D” forced the Sting to use another timeout. A pair of Jacqueline Mizrachi free throws got the score within 9 and the Flatbush fans were again chanting “F-L-A-T BUSH, BUSH, BUSH!” at the tops of their lungs.
Horowitz next got a pair of her own free throws, and Flatbush was as close as they had been since early in the contest, 37-30. A pair of Harary shots from the charity stripe cut the lead to five, and a huge rebound and put back by Blanka got the deficit down to three, where stood at the end of the third quarter. The lead was still owned by SAR at 39-36, the Falcons were cooking at both ends of the court, and the Sting were on their heels.
Huge rebounding at the outset of the final period got the ballgame to one as Levy corralled a Harary miss for a put back. And after a great defensive stand, Flatbush took its first lead on a Horowitz drive, 40-39 Flatbush! Coach Mizrahi then inserted Sophomore Kayla Motovich who rewarded her confidence with a swish from three. lifting the Falcons to a five-point lead. After SAR drew a foul and converted on one of two free throws, Harary then did like her young teammate, and Flatbush had taken a 47-40 lead with 5:31 to play. But, SAR was not done.
A Sting floater cut the Falcon lead down to 4 points. SAR then hit two free throws, but Horowitz found Blanka under the hoop and her basket pushed the lead back to 4 with 3:30 to play. But no sooner did the Falcons look to run clock, a missed Flatbush drive led to a Sting runner off the glass, and the game was tied, 49-49, and only 2:08 remained in regulation play. Levy then drew a foul on the sideline, and converted both to take back the two point lead. Again, SAR responded with a tying jumper. Blanka then went to the line, but she missed both. SAR had a chance to retake the lead with 1:30 left to play, and did so with an interior putback. Flatbush then had a chance to tie, but missed on the shot. 28:4 seconds remained and SAR had the ball to inbounds. Needing to foul to get the ball back, Flatbush made a umber of attempts to do so, but the officials did not grant the call. Blanka was then overly aggressive, grabbed and threw the SAR ball handler to the ground, drawing the ire of the official who assessed a flagrant foul and ejected her from the game. The sting hit one of two, and then did the same from the line again on the ensuing possession. FB now had the ball back with 17.3 seconds to play, but trailed 55-51. Motovich hit a jumper to cut the lead to two, but much time went by. Only 2 seconds remained FB sent SAR to the line, where the shooter calmly sank both, putting the game out of reach. The clock hit 0:00 marking the end to the game, and the season. SAR won by a score of 57-53. Flatbush had put together a comeback that was almost one for the ages, but they could not seal the deal. Once again Flatbush came so close, just not close enough.
In the aftermath of the devastating loss, Coach Mizrahi shared these thoughts with her players. “We started the season out 0-2 and could have easily continued down that path, but we didn’t. You worked hard as a team to turn that around and to reach our goal of getting to the Championship game. Along the way, we made a lot of great memories and became a family. [Coach Jon Gabriel, Coach Sylvia Franco and I] were never more proud of the fight you put up going into the second half tonight, and you proved to yourselves and everyone else that you truly belonged here.It’s something to be extremely proud of.”
Truer words could not have been said.
NEST NOTES: The team wishes to express its gratitude and appreciation to their classmates and teachers who traveled to Teaneck to support them in their quest for the championship. Their energy was infectious!
Kudos to Flatbush Senior Max Shemtob, who joined the MYHSAL Finals broadcast team, who added his knowledge and skill – along with some Falcon flavor – to the broadcast of the MYHSAL Varsity Girls Basketball Final.