The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (JDS) girls’ middle school basketball team narrowly defeated the Washington Christian Academy 26-24 on Monday, Feb. 11, to win the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference (PVAC) championship, in a dramatic comeback. JDS Lions co-captain and eighth-grader Avital Friedman was the highest scorer, with 11 points. Sixth-grader Shani Schwartz scored nine points, including two three-point shots.
The Lions got off to a slow start against the Wildcats and failed to score for the majority of the first quarter, resulting in a 9-4 lead for Washington Christian going into the second quarter. Missed shots and turnovers continued to plague the Lions for the remainder of the first half, giving the Wildcats a three-point advantage at halftime, with a score of 11-8.
But the Lions turned things around in the second half as a result of better communication, better passing, and better shooting. With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Friedman scored a three-pointer to tie the game. Schwartz then shot another three-pointer, giving the Lions their first lead of the game (14-11). Yet, the basketball team did not score for the rest of the third quarter, and the teams went into the fourth quarter with Washington Christian ahead 19-14.
The spectators were on their feet for much of the fourth quarter, as the lead switched back and forth between the two teams. With just a little more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, seventh-grader Talia Sporkin scored to put JDS in the lead at 20-19. The Lions’ advantage was short-lived, as Washington Christian scored 10 seconds later, and the Lions missed a free throw, tying the game again with less than two minutes to go. Friedman excited the crowd with a jump shot that gave the Lions the lead, and co-captain and eighth-grader Zoe Fischman secured the victory with a two-pointer with 34 seconds remaining in the game.
“We all worked very well together,” Friedman said, as the girls celebrated after the game. According to Friedman, the game was a big challenge because Washington Christian’s “defense is very strong and they were really good at cutting us off.”
JDS was ranked fourth going into the playoffs and lost to the Wildcats in overtime during the regular season. Schwartz said that she felt “a little shaky” going into the season and that the Lions didn’t have the best start, but they came back and “worked hard.”
Coach and Upper School learning specialist Brett Kugler said that the losses and challenges of the regular seasons enabled him and the team to develop a strategy for the playoffs and championship.
Even as they celebrated their victory, the Lions were already looking ahead to next season. “We are losing eighth-graders who are an essential part of our team,” Schwartz said, “but we’ll get some returners and play hard.”
This article was originally published in the Lion’s Tale, a student newspaper at JDS. Read more at www.lionstale.org.
By Nate Miller
Nate Miller is a freshman at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland.