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How sweet 16 it is for Yeshiva University hoops

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After winning their 28th and 29th consecutive games of what has become a truly magical season, the No. 13 nationally ranked Yeshiva University Maccabees advanced to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16 for the first time ever in school history.

The Maccabees lead by Five Towners Eliot Steinmetz, the head coach, and senior forward Gabriel Leifer, won two straight games scoring 102 points, against both Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Penn State Harrisburg, in the first and second rounds of the D-III tournament in on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on March 6 and 7. Senior guard Sammy Mandel, a Lawrence resident and Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns High School graduate and Alon Jakubowitz, a sophomore forward from Woodmere who graduated from Davis Renov Stahler  Yeshiva High School for Boys, are also on the team.   

Yeshiva (29-1) faces a tough test on Friday facing No. 3 nationally ranked Randolph-Macon College (28-2) on the Yellow Jackets home court in Ashland, Va. Randolph-Macon defeated Wesley and The College of New Jersey in the first and second games. The Maccabees have not lost since the season opener to Occidental College in California on Nov. 5.

The first two tournament games has seen sophomore forward Ryan Turell score a total of 71 points as went off for 41 points on 13-for-16 shooting from the field, including 7-for-9 from beyond the arc in the 102-78 win over WPI, the first NCAA tournament victory in Yeshiva men’s hoops history. The Maccabees made the tournament in 2018, but fell in the first round. Turell then knocked down 30 points versus PS-Harrisburg. He also dished seven assists and collected five rebounds.

Simcha Halpert was also on fire scoring 20 points against WPI, which moved the senior guard into second place on Y.U.’s all-time scoring list with 1,824 points. Junior guard Eitan Halpert, Simcha’s brother, tallied 14 points, had a career-best eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. Leifer  had only four points, but had eight assists and grabbed the same number of boards.

“Exciting to get our first program NCAA win, but this was the goal when we put this class together,” Steinmetz stated in a Maccabee news release. “Now we get the opportunity to play another game.”

Little did Steinmetz and the rest of the team know how exciting, as Yeshiva once again cracked the century mark in points thanks to Turell, Simcha Halpert, who tallied 21 points and garnered five rebounds, Eitan Halpert with 18 and freshman guard Ofek Reef 16 points. Leifer notched his fourth triple-double of the season with 10 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. His 412 rebounds are a Maccabee single-season record. The team shot 65.1 percent from the field, including an astonishing 64.7 percent from three-point range. The defense, which ignites the offense, held the Nittany Lions to 39.5 percent shooting. 

“Proud of these guys for how hard they work and the selflessness,” Steinmetz said in the release detailing the win over Penn State Harrisburg. “The constant willingness to share the ball, help on defense and compete as a unit is just special.”