Chants of “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!” thundered through the Hurwitz gym as Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School students decked out in blue and yellow — some donning face paint, capes and tutus — cheered on the home team BT Warriors during the 28th Annual Joseph and Florence Memorial Basketball Tournament.
From Dec. 3 through Dec. 7, boys and girls high school basketball teams from BT in Baltimore, the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York, the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park, Kan., the Ramaz School in New York, the Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto and the Yavneh Academy of Dallas joined together for sport, spirit and Shabbat.
In addition to the athletes, BT students volunteered to manage games and work the scoreboard. The school’s a cappella choir sang the national anthems, and students created posters that decorated the tournament gymnasiums.
A gregarious group of students offered commentary on the game via KOL-BT (Beth Tfiloh Radio), broadcast online at weinerfever.com. They were joined by Gary Stein, host of the CBS Radio weekly sports show, “The Gary Stein Show,” and announcer for the Baltimore Blast.
Students of all ages popped into games whenever their teachers allowed and pulled out their phones to check in on the scores and tweets from the @WeinerFever Twitter handle.
“Even if people aren’t into basketball, people get really into it,” said BT junior Rebecca Goldman.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” added BT’s director of student life, Rachel Levitt-Klein. “This tournament showcases what’s so great about our school. It’s a happy place where [the students] are supportive of one another. You see this enthusiasm across the board.”
In a hardscrabble game that began late Saturday night, the Warriors battled the Heschel Heat in the boys’ championship game. At the half, the Warriors were down by three points; they fought back hard in the second half, but ultimately Heschel was able to earn its third consecutive Weiner Tournament title, beating the Warriors 43-34. The BT boys finished the tournament at 5-2.
Prior to the game, Ari Braun, head coach of the BT boys’ team, described the resiliency of his team and their camaraderie on and off the court.
“We’ve shown resiliency even from last year,” he said. “Our guys know how to get it done when they have to scrap.”
The BT girls’ team missed out on the championship game but took third place against the Hyman Brand Rams, winning 46-33, leaving them with a tournament record of 5-2. In the tournament’s history, BT holds the most girls’ titles at five. The Ramaz Rams successfully fended of the Tanenbaum CHAT Tigers, 52-47, to win Ramaz’s first Weiner Tournament title.
Students were provided opportunities to socialize at an Ari Lesser performance Thursday night and at a Shabbaton, which featured an afternoon program with Rabbi Moshe Weiss, inventor of the SoundBender featured on ABCs popular show “Shark Tank.”
Basketball photos are by Lyn Traub and Rebecca Goldman
“We’ll get emails from kids who came before and who want to stay with the same families again,” said Cherie Brownstein, director of co-curricular programming. “This tournament, it’s bigger than a weekend, bigger than basketball.”
Athletic director Jeff Clarke echoed Brownstein’s sentiments and added that the tournament referees sign up two months in advance because they enjoy the tournament and atmosphere provided by the student body.
The BT High School Stars and Stripes committee incorporated a tzedakah element into the tournament by raffling tickets to a Ravens game, which BT boys’ assistant basketball coach Eli Creeger won. Money from ticket sales will be donated to the Semper Fi Fund, and the rest of the tournament proceeds will be given to various charitable groups, including three families the school “adopted” for the holiday season.
Though neither Warriors team clinched the tournament title, both teams had players voted to the first and second All-Tournament teams. From the BT girls’ team, senior Maia Harrison was named to the second team, and senior Alyson Chason was named to the first team. Ramaz senior Rachel Aboodi took home the Most Valuable Player award.
From the boys’ BT team, senior Matt Kasner was named to the second team, and seniors Dani Katz and Jordan King were named to the first team. Heschel senior Sam Lippman was named MVP.
Looking around the gym as students and host families hugged each other goodbye, Marvin Weiner, who created and maintains the tournament in his parents’ honor, said, “It’s phenomenal, a phenomenal tournament.”