After a 13-1 regular season, the lone loss coming by 21 points against WT, the CMEK Hornets found themselves down 12-4 after the first quarter in the BTBL Winter championship game. “We hadn’t faced this kind of adversity all season, so it was unchartered territory for us to be trailing. All the credit goes to our girls. They proved they were championship material in the comeback victory,” said Chad Mekles, the team’s coach.
“One thing about our team is all of our players are capable of making big plays. Tali Klein (Noam), our inside/outside threat, had her best game of the season when we needed it most. She scored in a variety of ways and kept us in it early. And then we had what nobody else had—a game-breaker. Sareena Parikh, our fastest player, kicked it into high gear and started disrupting the other team’s offensive flow. When it was close at the end, she drilled five of six foul shots, which proved to be the margin of victory,” Mekles continued.
The team was led by star center Ella Buchsbayew of Yavneh. “On the defensive end, she contests, blocks and rebounds more than anyone else in the league and offensively our motion offense runs through her at the high post. When she’s off the court, we’re not the same team,” he added.
Hannah Friedman of Noam played a key role in the playoffs. “Fort Lee came at us hard in the semifinal. Hannah was fearless and produced her best game of the season when we needed it most. Without her effort, we wouldn’t even make it to the title game,” noted Mekles.
“Arianna Chesner, widely regarded as the league’s most versatile player, has been the heart and soul of the team since fourth grade. She works hard. She wants to be great. She does everything out there for us. Her love for the game trickled down to the others who, in turn, started to make basketball their sport. She was our best player all season,” he continued.
“Jordana Marks (Noam), a starter, was solid throughout the season. Her shooting has always been good and her driving has improved. But her biggest play of the season was a hustle play when the momentum was about to swing and she sprinted back and blocked a shot that was in mid-air,” he said.
Leah Jackson of Yavneh was a key reserve. “I trust her in big moments. She knows how to move the ball and find the hot hand. And on defense she’s always in good position. Daniella Nussbaum, also of Yavneh, brings the toughness element to the team,” stated Mekles.
“We see a lot of strong, physical players in these games. Daniella plays the top of her full-court press fearless and on offense she plays her baseline position to perfection.” Julia Fried of Yavneh is an important reserve. “She was big for us in the championship. When I went with our twin towers lineup to slow down our opponent’s star player, she grabbed a few key rebounds,” he added.
The team is off to Dougie’s to celebrate their championship win. It’s a tradition that started six years ago when Jack Speiser (son of Jonathan and Sonya) of Moriah won a CMEK championship in second grade. “I love the food there. It’s the monster burger every time for me. And that monster burger is going to taste even better this time after our monster championship win,” he concluded.