After completing their regular season with a 9-1 mark and #2 seed in the Western Conference, the Frisch JV Cougars accepted an invitation to the Oren Grunbaum Memorial Tournament in Montreal, Canada, this past weekend.
The tournament, in its 22nd season and hosted with impeccable precision by Hebrew Academy of Montreal and its athletic director, Yoni Lehrer, is in memory of the late Oren Grunbaum, a prior student of the HA who passed away tragically at the age of 19 while on a hiking trip in the mountains of Canada.
The Frisch team consisted of sophomores Max Mayerhoff, Jack Reinhart, Jake Fromen, Benny Matheson, Yair Siegel, Seth Silverman, Joey Strobel and Ariel Solomon, and freshmen Rafi Lewis, Max Zakheim, Danny Weinberger, Akiva Feit, Eitan Dukas and Billy Krause. Sophomore Jay Jay Blinken was unable to attend.
Frisch departed on the six plus hour bus ride, along with SAR and HANC, on Wednesday, February 8, and was joined at the tournament by Kushner, North Shore Hebrew Academy, JEC/RTMA, Yavné of Montreal and the host school, Hebrew Academy of Montreal.
The eight teams were divided by divisions, with Frisch joining HANC, Yavné and North Shore in Division 1, while SAR, HA of Montreal, Kushner and JEC rounded out Division 2.
After a late arrival Wednesday night, the Frisch Cougars started early Thursday morning with a game versus the HANC Hurricanes. After a back and forth first half which saw multiple lead changes, the pressure defense of Frisch, along with a fluid half court offensive attack, helped the team pull away to a 60-48 victory in the first game.
One interesting note about the tournament is that in Montreal they play by FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, which includes, among other things, a 24 second shot clock. While it took both teams in the first game a few minutes to adjust, with some early shot clock violations, the Frisch Cougars quickly adjusted which led to a much more fluid and exciting game for the players, coaches and fans.
After the game, the team watched two other games together and then went back to their hotel, where they got cleaned up and headed out together to the local mall for a taste of some kosher Montreal food, including their famed poutine (fries topped with gravy and cheese).
From there it was on to the Cougars second game of the day, this time against an equally tough North Shore Stars squad. Once again, after a back and forth first half and a closely played third quarter, Frisch pulled ahead for good in the fourth. When the final horn sounded, Frisch saw their tournament record go to 2-0 with a 66-53 victory.
Friday morning started early for the team, with davening and breakfast at the hotel, and at 10:30am they were ready for the tip versus the local Montreal school, Yavné. The local team came prepared, used to the FIBA rules and armed with the best player in the tournament, but Frisch was eager for the challenge. This time, from the outset, Frisch controlled the game, and when the game was over Frisch had clinched the #1 seed in their division with a 3-0 record and a 64-50 victory.
During the break between games, Eitan Dukas came out of the three-point shooting contest with 14 treys, and was set to participate in the finals on Saturday night, while Billy Krause came out victorious for Frisch in the Knockout tournament and also clinched a spot in the Saturday night finals.
Heading into Shabbat, the semi-finals matchups were set, and Division 1’s #1 seed Frisch would play Division 2’s #2 seed JEC, while Division 2’s #1 seed SAR would play Division 1’s #2 seed North Shore.
Shabbat provided a much needed break from the games and a time to interact together with all the teams in the tournament. Davening took place in the local Montreal shul, followed by a delicious dinner with all the teams sitting amongst each other as they learned about each other’s schools and cultures, and built new friendships. The teams were treated to special tournament guest Yogev Berdugo, of Camp Step it Up fame, who addressed the schools with his keynote speech.
After dinner and benching, the teams joined together for a tisch and then retreated to the hotel for downtime and bedtime.
Shabbat morning saw all the teams in the local shul participating with the community members in an inspiring tefilla. Lunch followed, and after speeches from some of the kids in each of the schools, everyone once again went back to the hotel for a Shabbat afternoon rest.
When Shabbat ended, after North Shore defeated SAR in the first game, the JEC/Frisch “primetime” matchup was ready to be played.
Frisch controlled the game from the tip, with pressure defense, timely three point shooting, pinpoint passing and overall great team play. When the game was over, Frisch was set to play North Shore in the championship game after a convincing 65-41 victory over JEC.
North Shore, after suffering their only loss of the tournament to Frisch, was eager for revenge. The championship game was another great battle back and forth, but in the end, Frisch came out on top with a 57-46 win, a 5-0 tournament record and a second Oren Grunbaum Memorial Tournament Championship trophy.
Frisch sophomore Jake Fromen was nominated as a tournament All-Star and sophomore Max Mayerhoff was voted unanimous MVP. The entire tournament was a real team effort as Frisch played all of its 14 players in each and every game and all had the opportunity to contribute significantly to the team’s five victories.
The entire team would like to extend a huge “thank you” to Hebrew Academy of Montreal, their parent body and their amazing athletic director, Yoni Lehrer, for being such tremendous hosts and running an amazing tournament. Beyond the games and the trophies, the team will remember this for the rest of their lives and look back with fond memories about the great friendships that were made and strengthened during the course of the tournament. They would also like to give hakarat hatov to the entire Frisch administration, including Rabbi Ciner, Rabbi Wald and Aron “AC” Coren for allowing the team to participate and experience the “warmth” of Montreal and all it and its residents have to offer.
The team will now set its eyes squarely on the upcoming playoffs and the goal of, once again, being champions of the MYHSAL.