March 8, 2018

GOA Boys and Girls Basketball Defeat Schechter Long Island and Westchester in Fifth Annual Tri-Schechter Tournament

Nina Robins ‘19

On January 6, the Golda Och Academy boys and girls basketball teams each competed in games, a normal occurrence. However, these faceoffs were particularly atypical.
January 6 was a Saturday night, an unusual time for a GOA sports event. The bleacher seating in the gym overflowed with spectators, all noticeably more attentive than usual. Most peculiar of all, calls of encouragement for “Schechter” rang throughout the room, directed toward all teams involved.
This is the fifth annual Tri-Schechter Basketball Tournament, one of GOA’s most popular demonstrations of school spirit. The tournament featured boys and girls varsity squads from GOA, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester and Schechter School of Long Island and is established on a cycle, in which the location rotates every year.
This year, GOA was fortunate to host the event and the Roadrunners did not disappoint, earning a pair of victories. GOA’s boys varsity team defeated Schechter Long Island, 46-20, while the girls team defeated Schechter Westchester, 44-34.
Regardless of the outcome, parents, faculty and students of all ages flock to the spectacle and bring raucous cheering to the Sandy Pyonin Basketball Court.
“The team definitely has more energy and spirit when playing another Schechter than during any other game,” junior and varsity player Aaron Lavitsky said. He was echoed by fellow junior athlete Michelle Bilmes, who claimed that “having so many people in the stands most definitely contributed to our school spirit.”

Both the girls and boys basketball teams consider the Tri-Schechter game to be among their favorite games of the season. Rather than intimidate them, some basketball players believe that the spirit and support of the school community make the competition more exciting and alleviate stress.
“It was much lighter,” junior player Shana Slater said. “Overall, it wasn’t an intense game.”
The basketball teams value Tri-Schechter because, in the scrimmage environment, coaches feel little pressure to push their regular starters. Instead, the entire bench empties, and every player contributes to the team effort.
“A lot of the players who don’t usually play got to play, which changed the dynamic of the actual team a little bit,” Slater said. “There was comfort in knowing that the result didn’t matter, so the play could afford to be different.”
Still other players experienced adrenaline on account of their proximity to friends and family. Lavitsky believed that this excitement gave the teams a stronger desire to win, and Bilmes believed that the friendliness of the teams contributed to their competitiveness with each other.
The athletic spectacle of Tri-Schechter is not the only beloved aspect of the event. The competition against two other New York-based Jewish day schools lends itself to becoming a social frenzy for teenagers involved in Jewish recreation.
“It was fun to see all my friends and play against people from camp,” varsity player Jamie Gutterman, a junior, said. He and fellow teammate Lavitsky enjoyed competing against their basketball playing friends from Schechter Long Island, whom they knew from multiple summers at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.
Even Ramah campers and United Synagogue Youth participants who were not students at any of the three Schechter schools attended the event solely to meet with their friends.
“The Tri-Schechter game was a lot of fun,” sophomore Talia Levin, from the Heschel School, said. “The food, sports, people, everything.
“It was great to see so many friends from Ramah and USY – lots of Jewish Geography!”
In addition to basketball and socializing, the Tri-Schechter event featured popcorn and cotton candy stations, pizza and ice cream, frequent favorites among high schoolers. National Honor Society organized a soup packaging project, in which students assembled dozens of jars of soup to be distributed to people in need.
“Tri-Schechter was an amazing opportunity to take advantage of the big group of people at the game and really make an impact in our community,” senior Shachar Kessler said.
Tri-Schechter also included collaboration between GOA sports and arts. Choir members sang both American and Israeli national anthems, and in between the girls and boys games, the Dance Team performed an energetic arrangement.
“Sometimes, there’s a lot of distance between the different departments at GOA. It was great to have them come together and perform for everyone,” Kessler said.
Tri-Schechter was far from the average basketball scrimmage and it was especially momentous due to GOA’s victory in both games. This year in particular, GOA enhanced the experience dramatically beyond a simple sports match.
“I didn’t get to go last year, but this year totally made up for it,” Schechter Long Island senior Zachary Zabib said.
For all the excitement and activity at the event, perhaps it was best described by junior Dena Feldman:

“It was fun.”

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