" The turning point in my life was coming to RZJHS because that was when I became a leader. I was empowered by my teachers and I learned how to be a good student. I developed a good work ethic, I took initiative, and I got to shape a lot of things that are still in existence at RZJHS today. I definitely wouldn’t trade my unique experience for anything."
By Jeff Vorva, Special to the Tribune
“In 1999, comedy heavyweights Will Ferrell and Jerry Seinfeld were involved in a Saturday Night Live skit spoofing a Jewish high school basketball team.
Fourteen years later, Deerfield’s Chicagoland Jewish High School put together a basketball season that was no joke. The Tigers finished the season 21-4 after dropping a decision to Newark, 67-64 Saturday night in the Class 1A Mooseheart Sectional final.
It was the first time the Tigers reached the final 16 in the state tournament and they were able to continue their incredible season thanks to a real David vs. Goliath-like storyline when they beat Mooseheart, 70-67 on its own court in the Class 1A sectional semifinals on Feb. 27.
“I’ve been around the block a time or two and it begins and ends with your players,” Tigers coach Marty Dello said. “And it’s not just their skill level. It’s their attitude. All season long they’ve had that desire to compete and that desire to win. When you put those things together, you have a good combination.
“And they are also unselfish. They don’t care who scores. They don’t care who shoots. They want to play good team basketball. Sometimes we have to yell at them to shoot because they pass up too many good shots.”
Mooseheart had six players on the roster 6-foot-4 or taller and a front line of 7-1, 6-9, 6-7. All three giants are students who moved in from Sudan and gained plenty of media attention when they were ruled ineligible by the Illinois High School Association for a short amount of time in December.
Despite the height disadvantage, the Tigers pulled off a come-from-behind victory that had the Tigers student section storm the Mooseheart court.
“Their smallest player on the court was 6-3,” said sophomore Josh Newlander. “Our tallest player on the court was 6-3. The height was just overwhelming. But we didn’t let that get into our heads. We said that height is big but would not affect how we play. We played like we were 7-foot tall. We played our game like we always do.”
The Tigers trailed by 10 with 3:06 left but chipped away.
Newlander’s brother, Jake, nailed a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to give the Tigers their first lead in the second-half, 66-64, and the Tigers hung on to win.
Throughout the game, the smaller Tigers aggressively went after steals and took advantage of numerous Red Ramblers’ turnovers.
“People asked me how we prepared for their height,” Dello said. “I said ‘how did they prepare for our height?’ I didn’t plan on being down so much with three minutes left, but I thought we could wear them down and we would win if we made our shots.
“They played a 1-3-1 and it’s one of the longest teams I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing this for 25 years. They shrink the court on you. But the biggest thing is that we were able to make baskets and set up our full-court pressure.”
Other members of this historic team include seniors Gabe Gavierlov, Rami Elian, Josh Flink, Daniel Sigler and Daniel Fishbaum.
Also on the roster are juniors Hillel Schwartz, Yarden Michael, Joshua Silverman, Nathaniel Moses, Evan Gorstein, Avidan Halivni, Jonathan Chasin, Jeremy Goodman and Josh Aaronson.
Sophomores Eli Schrayer, Josh Wolf and Isaac Johnson were also on the squad.
“There was great chemistry on this team,” Josh Newlander said. “We’re all friends. This has been a dream come true. We have a good team with a lot of spirit. And we know how to play well with each other.”
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC”
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