The Yeshiva University Maccabees have captivated Jewish basketball fans everywhere with their selfless play that has propelled them on a 50 game win streak which is currently the longest active streak in Men’s college basketball(The Hope women’s team has won 55 straight, which is something we can celebrate together with this one). This stretch has been so astonishing to the point where this DIII team has received national attention from media outlets such as ESPN, New York Magazine, NBA, Néw York Post, New York Times, as well as the Wall Street Journal, among many others. They’ve also been mentioned on “NBC Nightly News” after multiple games this season. The ability to balance religion and basketball with not all 15 players being orthodox yet respecting one another and showing unity on the playing surface is one of the many reasons why they’ve been able to draw many eyeballs across the basketball world. Yeshivah wasn’t always a powerhouse in the Skyline conference, as before coach Elliot Steinmetz(Father of Diamondbacks prospect Jacob Steinmetz who became the first Orthodox Jew to be drafted this past Summer) took the reigns in 2015, the last winning season produced was in 2007. But Steinmetz’s recruiting style is quiet but deadly to the opposition convincing Jews to start for him rather than be a benchwarmer for a Division I team and waste their College basketball potential. Steinmetz also recruited All-Americans such as Ryan Turell and Gabriel Leifer. They have been instrumental parts of the second phase of Elliott’s program transition since they stepped on the floor together in 2019.
It has led us to this Point in late December of 2021, where the Yeshivah University Maccabees basketball program have eclipsed the 50 straight wins threshold ahead of their highly-anticipated matchup with the #4 ranked Illinois Wesleyan Titans on Thursday night at the Max Stern athletic center in a contest that features the most formidable defense this band of men has ever faced. But to truly grasp what this tilt and this team mean to “Macs maniacs” everywhere, we need to rewind to where it all began… win #1 back in November of 2019 and make our way to where we are now at 50. For some of you, it will create nostalgia; for the latecomers on this wagon, you can appreciate where it started, and others may click away after reading about a few wins telling themselves, “It’s too much to handle,” which is precisely what this Yeshivah team has been doing for the past three seasons to all who look to deter them away from their goal of bringing home the schools first-ever National Championship this upcoming Spring.
To become a National phenomenon, Yeshivah first had to make that clear to their conference, and they pushed through to the Skyline championship game in 2018 to accomplish that goal. They had entered the depths of a good team from 2015-2017 with playoff appearances exploded with a 13-7 conference record(15-10 overall) to earn the #4 seed led by sophomores Simcha Halpert, Daniel Katz, Gabriel Leifer, Bar Alluf, and Tyler Hod. Just so proud of these guys to come from where we did and earn a home playoff game,” Yeshiva University head coach Elliot Steinmetz said at the time. “We are so young but growing up so fast. It’s been fun to watch.”
Facing off against Mount St Mary’s in round one, Yeshivah sported their trademark resolve with an 80-67 win by overcoming a 17 point deficit with a 45-28 spurt in the second half after cutting the Knights lead down to 13 just before the break. In the semifinals, Yeshivah knocked off #1 seed Farmingdale State, 77-75 in overtime, to advance to their first final in program history. Three days later, the Macs made history with an 87-81 triumph of a Purchase team previously 12-0 at home that season. Simcha Halpert went for 25 points and earned championship game MVP honors.
Yeshivah’s journey wasn’t finished, as from there, they advanced to the NCAA tournament where the youngsters met their match in #11 ranked York College, falling 81-67. Still, there was much to be proud of, and it was only a sign of legendary things to come.
In the season that followed, Yeshivah welcomed freshman Ryan Turell. It coasted (16-4 conference record, 19-7 overall) to another Conference championship game where they fell to Farmingdale State College in a playoff rematch 81-75 despite a combined 47 points from Turell(20 points) and Leifer(27 points).
The Macs then opened the 2019-20 season with a non-conference loss to Occidental College in California, 72-60, and it looked as if they weren’t destined for stardom. But little did they know, that would be the final time they would be on the wrong side of the hyphen for at least 50 games.
WIN #1: MACS 77 CALTECH 58 (11/10/19)
Not even 24 hours after dropping their season-opener, the Macs kicked off the streak to be by thrashing the Beavers 77-58. Ryan Turell slammed home 36 points in his return to his hometown, while Gabriel Leifer continued his success against California-based teams (Dating back to the Sarachek tournament in his DRS high school
Days) with seven points, six assists, five rebounds, and two blocks, while Simcha Halpert added 17 points in the demolition.
Win #2: MACS 79 SALISBURY 71(11/16/19)
Yeshivah recorded its first “quality win” of the streak by making an 8-0 second-half spurt stand-up and taking down a perennially ranked team on the road at the time. It was a balanced effort, with Turell pouring In 21, Leifer having 19, and Ofek Reef added 15. The victory put the Macs over .500, and they would never look back.
WIN #3: MACS 78 WASHINGTON COLLEGE 68(11/17/19)
This would be the first of a couple of meetings between the two teams during this stretch. Still, this contest saw the Macs outscore Washington College, 40-27 in the second half, to earn the come-from-behind victory by a score of 78-68 at the Cain Athletic Center in our Nation’s Capital.
Down 64-62 with 7:38 left, the Macs ripped off a 12-0 clip to permanently seize control of the game. “We took away the paint” is what Coach Steinmetz said after the game, and indeed they did as the stellar defense down the stretch painted another W. Turell had 32 points on this night, engineering the Yeshivah offense along with Leifer contributed his part with 15 points and a career-high to this point 17 rebounds. Ofek Reef and Simcha Halpert added 13 points each and were instrumental on defense in the second half to seal the win.
WIN #4: BROOKLYN COLLEGE 74 MACS 98(11/21/19)
Yeshivah sparked a fanbase starved for a hole tilt after four games on the road to open the campaign, and they didn’t disappoint with a thumping of the Bulldogs. Gabriel Leifer was the distributor again in this one posting a fantabulous 23-12-9 stat line. Turell followed suit with yet another dominant performance consisting of 25 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in the wire-wire win.
Once again, Ofek Reef(17 points) and Simcha Halpert(13 points) rounded out the scoring, reaching double-figures yet again.
Catching the theme here, Macs fans? Still
Forty-six more to go!
WIN #5: YESHIVAH 102 MOUNT SAINT VINCENT 73(11/23/19)
Yeshivah achieved 100 points for the first time this season and first of many times during this winning streak. Ryan Turell had 31 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists by Leifer helped his team earn their first conference win of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds on the night. Simcha Halpert meanwhile drained five threes and added 17 points overall off the bench.
WIN #6: OLD WESTBURY 79 YESHIVAH 94(11/26/19)
After a slow start, the Macs rallied past Old Westbury for their sixth straight win. Down 22-15, Yeshivah went on a 23-17 run kick-started by Turell to close the gap to 39-38, heading into intermission. Caleb
Milobsky and Turell began the second half with back-back layups to begin the second half to give the Macs the lead. Old Westbury would show toughness, though, and remain in the contest until Halpert found Katz, whose layup gave Yeshiva a 60-58 hold they wouldn’t give away. With 4:16 left and the game still in the balance at 77-74, Ofek Reef and the Maccabees went on a 7-0 run(Ofek layup, Simcha Halpert trey, and Turell lay-up) to put this one to bed as the Macs maintained their distance by cashing in at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Overall, Ryan Turell led the way with 30 points, while Gabriel Leifer added 20. Halpert(14 points) and Reef(11 points) also again reached double-figures.
WIN #7: YESHIVAH 85 ST JOSEPHS COLLEGE 51(12/3/19)
The Macs balled out in Brooklyn with the “Gabriel Leifer” show on full display as he submitted a 16-17-11 stat line for his best all-around game of the streak up to this point. Halpert and Reef added 15 apiece, Caleb Milobsky had 11 with seven rebounds, and Bar Alluf put up 10, including five rebounds in addition to stout defensive play.
WIN #8: YESHIVAH 79 FARMINGDALE STATE 72(12/5/19)
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and that’s what the Macs did, as they returned to the sight of their 2019 Skyline Conference final loss with a 79-72 thrilling victory over Farmingdale State. Ofek Reef and Simcha Halpert seemed to have wanted it more than anyone as they poured in 22 points apiece, while the super-nova Leifer added 10 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists.
Yeshivah claimed the lead early and never relinquished it in a battle that was mainly in the trenches and reliant on the defensive side of the basketball. Daniel Katz sealed the battle-tested win with two free throws late in regulation for the final two of his 13 points in the game.
WIN #9: YESHIVAH 96 ST JOSEPHS (LI) 76 (12/8/19)
The Macs upped their win streak to nine and improved to 5-0 in conference play. Gabriel Leifer added 24 points in the consistently hostile Danzi Center, with Yeshivah looking locked in on the task at hand. Simcha Halpert added 19 points, Bar Alluf tallied a season-best 17, and Ofek Reef had a decent outing with 14 points for the suddenly surging Maccabees.
WIN #10: YESHIVAH 83 ECST 75 (12/15/19)
The streak reached double digits on the same day as Simcha Halpert reached the 1,500-career point plateau during the contest, becoming just the fifth player in program history to earn the scoring milestone. “He could be scoring at an even higher clip, as hard as it is to believe, but he’s just all about the team and winning. I am happy for him but even more impressed with his constant team-first attitude and leadership”, Elliot raved about his senior guard postgame.
This was a game of runs, as Eastern Connecticut State ripped off a 15-0 clip for a 32-22 advantage, but Yeshivah would close the gap to 43-39 by the break after going on a 17-11 run.
Four minutes into the second half, the Macs seized the lead as Caleb Milobsky successfully converted on a layup. This would be a prelude to a 19-4 run moments later that would increase the visitor’s advantage to 74-63 and essentially clinch their 10th straight win, which they did on free throws.
Leifer had a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 20 rebounds, continuing his pursuit for conference MVP. Simcha Halpert splashed six three’s en route to a 20
Point night which keyed the comeback, while Turell(14) and Reef(13) reached double figures respectively in the non-conference win.
WIN #11: NJCU 92 MACS 97( 12/17/19)
This was an emotional win, for before the contest tipped off, the two teams came together by standing side-by-side for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Jersey City shooting that took place a week before this game took place. The players and coaches on both teams also stood with each other while the playing of both the American and Israeli national anthems was blasted over the loudspeakers.
But charged up by the fans, Leifer embraced the moment with his eighth double-double of the season, going for 25 points, and 12 rebounds, while Simcha Halpert reached the 22 point threshold again, while Ofek Reef had 21. The game was nip and tuck the entire way with several lead changes before an 8-0 run separated YU and the Gothic Knights, as Yeshivah netted a 77-67 cushion with 7:20 remaining. The Macs would then clinch the game on free throws, with a successful fast team outlet pass from Happer to Turell for the easy lay-in ignited the sell-out crowd in attendance, as Yeshivah improved to a franchise-best 11-1 on the year.
WIN #12: YESHIVAH 85 MORAVIAN COLLEGE 78(12/19/19)
Ryan Turell headed into the Winter break with a 31 point night, while Leifer added 14 points and a career-high 21 rebounds in the hard-fought Macs win. This contest featured the first buzzer-beater of the streak as in the waning seconds of the first half, Reef grabbed the rebound after a Turell block and fed Simcha Halpert, who drained the three, that put Yeshivah up 40-35 at the break.
But the visitors would yield an 8-0 run to begin the half, as the Greyhounds looked to snap the streak of the Skyline favorites. However, in the final seven minutes, Yeshivah put on a display they’re much known for today, as they erupted on a 12-2 run for a 75-67 advantage with 5:15 left, giving them the lead for good. Things would get tight in the final moments, but a Leifer tip-in and a defensive stop effectively clinched the game for YU up 79-76 and free throws on the way. Simcha Halpert added 21 points as the Macs went into Winter vacation on a 12 game win streak.
WIN #13: YESHIVAH 94 MARITIME 56(1/22/20)
The Macs improved to 6-0 in league play with a resounding blowout victory. Ryan Turell poured in 20 points, while Gabriel Leifer had 18 points and 14 rebounds for double-double #10 on the year. Simcha Halpert came out of the Winter break and didn’t skip a beat by adding 23 points, with Ofek Reef halving that by putting up 11.
WIN #14: MERCHANT MARINE 56 YU 80(1/25/20)
This time it was Gabriel Leifer who at long last made history by achieving the 1,000th career point mark at Yeshivah University.
“ The milestone makes me feel great, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Leifer said at the time. “People told me I was 16 points away before the game. I didn’t want to hear it, but everyone talks about it because it is a big accomplishment. When I heard that I was 16 points away, it was in my head a little bit, but when I got on the court, it just all went away. The only thing that matters is getting the win.” The game was primarily non-competitive, with a late 15-0 run in the first half, putting Yeshivah up 41-18, and from there, it was yet another laughter. “One of the most impressive players and people I’ve ever coached or been around,” Steinmetz said
of Leifer, who also had 30 points in the win. “His scoring is not even the most impressive part of his game. His awareness on the court and ability to make his teammates better makes him an all-time Macs great.”
Ryan Turell had 23, and Simcha Halpert had 10, as Yeshivah breezed to their 14th straight win.
WIN #15: YESHIVAH 74 SARAH LAWRENCE 72(1/28/20)
Every streak needs some luck, which was this game for the Macs. Now having been voted into the top 25 for the first time in school history, they almost dropped the ball but were rescued by Ryan Turell’s 34 points and, most importantly, Gabriel Leifer’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to uplift the Macs to a road win and keep the streak alive. Down 72-71 with 30 seconds remaining, coach Steinmetz opted not to call a timeout and let his superstars go to work. Turell dribbled the ball up the floor and drove hard to the rim but at the last moment passed it to Gabe in the corner, who swished the three to silence the Gryphones crowd and give Yeshivah a 74-72 lead with 0.2 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Leifer deflected the inbounds pass to cement his “Mactastic moment” and run the winning streak up 15. As Ryan said, postgame, “Clutch players make clutch plays.”
WIN #16: PURCHASE 73 YESHIVAH 86 (1/30/20)
Leifer got a rousing ovation two days after his “Three heard around campus” and delivered with 14 points and 16 rebounds. But it was Simcha Halpert who highlighted the festivities with a season-high 33 points, including seven three-pointers. Defensively, Ryan Turell grabbed nine boards, while Ofek Reef had five to go along with 14 points in a contest where YU never trailed.
WIN #17: MANHATTANVILLE 79 YESHIVAH 100(2/1/20)
Another wire-wire win for the Macs, who improved to 10-0 in conference play. Ryan Turell had 25 points and nine rebounds, while Gabriel Leifer added 24 in addition to 16 rebounds for triple-double #14 on the season.
WIN #18: YESHIVAH 77 WILLIAMS 68(2/3/20)
Now ranked #22 in the nation, YU got a taste of what was possible to come in the NCAA tournament as they fended off an aggressive Williams College team on the road. A late 19-12 run by Yeshivah in the first half gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as the second half consisted of some Caleb Milobsky three’s and excellent defensive play from Daniel Katz as YU had to reach deep into their pool of depth to keep their streak alive. With the game hanging in the balance, Gabriel Leifer capped off another double-double( 12 points, 15 rebounds), and Simcha Halpert put a bow on it with a 12 point night by combining to go 6 for 6 from the free-throw line to lock up the contested victory.
WIN #19: YESHIVAH 82 MOUNT ST MARYS 65(2/5/20)
There was no comeback needed here, as the Macs used a 30 point night from Turell, a 14 point outing from Halpert, another double-double from Leifer, and gritty defense for another conference victory.
Win#20: MOUNT SAINT VINCENT 80 YESHIVAH 95 (2/8/20)
They may not have had a full tank on this night which was likely due to fatigue, but Yeshivah still found a way to nail down a win. Gabriel Leifer, the “Walking double-double,” chipped in with 15 points and 17 rebounds, while Simcha Halpert knocked down 27 points, and Ryan Turell added 26. The contest was close throughout, but Simcha and Eitan Halpert drained trey’s late to put the game out of reach.
WIN #21: ST JOSEPH’S 62 MACS 94(2/11/20)
Yeshivah bludgeoned the rival Bears and clinched the #1 seed for the upcoming Skyline Conference playoffs. This was a more balanced effort, with Reef recording 18 points, Turell netting 15, Halpert putting up 12, and Bar Aluf laying in 10. This was over before it started, and Macs’ nation soaked it all in, locking down the top seed for the first time meaning the road to March madness would run through Yeshivah.
WIN #22: FARMINGDALE STATE 71 YU 98(2/15/20)
This was no contest as the refreshed #21 ranked Macs trounced their most feared competition. The night was highlighted by Ryan Turell becoming the fastest player to reach the 1,000 point plateau before scoring 24 points in the win. Simcha Halpert added to the שמחה״” with a 22 point barrage along with 10 assists. “Ryan is a special player and a special person.” Said Coach Steinmetz after the game, “His selflessness on the court and his ability to make his teammates better is just awesome. The fact he can score is a bonus to his overall game.”
WIN #23: YESHIVAH 87 OLD WESTBURY 63(2/18/20)
Now ranked 17th in the nation, the Macs handled their business against a conference rival in what would be their final road game of the regular season. Turell led the way with 32 points, while Leifer added 16 and 17 rebounds, and Simcha Halpert scored 15 points in the convincing win.
WIN #24: ST JOSEPHS(LI) 69 YU 83 (2/22/20)
This game was about solidifying the perfect 16-0 regular season in conference play. It took Yeshivah some time to tap into that mentality, but once they did, it was a breeze and a blast for all of Macs nation in attendance at the Max Stern Athletic Center.
After an error-filled first half that somehow saw Yeshivah in the lead at 35-33, the Macs opened the half on a 14-2 clip before going on a 9-0 run minutes later for a 63-50 advantage, which would balloon to as many as 18. Ryan Turell topped off his astonishing regular season with 10 points, and Leifer notched a double-double #20, with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Simcha Halpert added 18 points, while Ofek Reef recorded 14 points in 27 minutes.
WIN#25: MERCHANT MARINE 57 YESHIVAH 75(2/25/20)
In front of a raucous playoff crowd supporting the 15th ranked team in the nation, Simcha Halpert poured in 20 points, Gabriel Leifer had 17 points in addition to 13 rebounds, Ryan Turell added 12, and Eitan Halpert had 10 in a well-rounded postseason victory for a Macs team that was headed to their third straight conference semifinal.
Win #26: FARMINGDALE STATE 69 YESHIVAH 74 (2/27/20)
In a Macs classic, Yeshivah ultimately exercised some playoff demons and ousted Farmingdale state to advance to the conference final. A sold-out crowd packed the Max Stern Athletic center that Thursday evening and thought they could breathe easy when their beloved Yeshiva University Maccabees enjoyed a 43-29 lead at intermission. Still, Farmingdale State furiously rallied for a six-point lead midway through the second half and seemed to be grinding down this Yeshivah squad just as they did a year ago in the Skyline conference final. But that was when the “ Ryan takeover show “began, and both refused to go home.
Ryan Kennedy nailed a three with 1:45 left to seize the lead back for FCU. But Ryan Turell decided for a perfect time to match the opposition’s Ryan and nailed a jumper to put Yeshivah up 68-67 with 75 seconds remaining. It was a battle of willpower from there on out, with the Macs going on a snail-like 6-0 clip while bearing down on defense before Turell iced the ballgame in the dying seconds from the charity stripe setting off a celebration for the ages as fans streamed the court to soak in the accomplishment.
WIN #27: PURCHASE 74 YESHIVAH 86(2/29/20)
For the second time in three years, the Maccabees became NCAA tournament bound, as they rallied past #2 seeded Purchase in the Skyline Conference final to trigger pandemonium inside the Max Stern Athletic Center. There was tension inside the arena, especially early, when the Macs fell behind 13-3, but an 18-0 run catapulted by Finals MVP Gabriel Leifer gave Yeshivah a 21-13 lead. The lead would sprout from there, as Simcha Halpert punctuated an astounding first half with a cannon-ball three from deep for a 55-39 Macs halftime lead. Yeshivah would never take their foot off the gas pedal from there, maintaining their distance, and turning the fantasy of a perfect conference season into a reality.
Ryan Turell had 29 points in the clincher, Eitan Halpert added 19, and Gabriel Leifer boasted his legendary level of play with a triple-double, dropping 16 points, a career-high 24 rebounds, and 12 assists in the trophy-clincher.
Most importantly, the streak was now at 27 games and had a chance to be continued in March Madness.
WIN #28: YESHIVAH 102 WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC 78 (3/5/20)
The #13 ranked Macs ensured this trip to the NCAA tournament would last beyond the first round with 51 points apiece in both halves, and a Ryan Turell 41 point masterpiece, even earning praise from the opposing coach who called; it the “Greatest tournament performance I’ve ever seen.”
Ryan also racked up the program accolade for most points in a single season, breaking Simcha Halpert’s record of 599 points from the 2018 championship season. Halpert contributed in this game, too, going for 20 points, while Eitan went for 14.
Gabriel Leifer set the school record for assists, hitting career #398 in this one and finishing up with eight apples on the game.
WIN #29: PENN ST HARRISBURG 83 YESHIVAH 102 (3/7/20)
Little did we know it at the time, but this would be the last game the Maccabees would appear in that season as the remainder of the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 a few days later. But Yeshivah ultimately did finish this Cinderella run on a high note by pulverizing and mesmerizing Penn ST 102-83 for their second straight contest with 102 points. Ryan Turell scored 30 points in the commanding win. In comparison, Gabriel Leifer added 10 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists for his fourth and final triple-double of the campaign while also grabbing career carom #412 during this game to set a single-season NCAA DIII record. Simcha(21 points) and Eitan Halpert(18 points) knocked down four threes each, while Ofek Reef tallied 16 points in 20 minutes himself.
Win#30: YESHIVAH 98 MANHATTANVILLE 76 (2/13/21)
After a 343 day hiatus, Maccabees basketball returned with the pre-knowledge that there would be no NCAA tournament this year. Nevertheless, the Macs were playing to extend the winning streak and did a resounding road win to open up the 2021 season. Both teams looked a bit rusty, as you would expect, but Yeshivah closed out the contest on a 23-8 run to increase their overall winning streak to 30 games.
Turell scored 31 points, while Eitan Halpert netted 21 and Ofek Reef had 16. But the biggest surprise of the night was seeing Matan Zucker get quality minutes and chip in with 11 points, as the sophomore looked to familiarize himself with things early on as he earned more trust from coach Steinmetz. The victory gave the players renewed confidence that they could make the most out of what would become a COVID-truncated season with exhibition games at a
premium. “We’re just happy to be playing again,” echoed the entire team after the game.
WIN #31: MANHATTANVILLE 73 MACS 94(2/14/21)
Yeshivah swept the home and home series with a thumping of their city rivals. The bench impressed with 16, led by Adi Markovich’s 11 points. Gabriel Leifer had 12 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double, Eitan Halpert had five 3’s with 17 points, and Turell poured in a game-high 36.
WIN #32: YESHIVAH 70 Rochester 63(2/21/21)
In a see-saw battle, the #8 ranked Macs fended off a team looking to foil history, grinding out another win. The game included 13 ties and 15 lead changes, and Turell delivered once more by sparking a late 5-0 run to essentially seal the contest before free throws officially kept Yeshivah undefeated. Eitan Halpert added 17, while Leifer contributed with his 25th double-double of the streak with 13 points and 14 rebounds, as the Macs toughed out a victory after a day wherein the words of coach Steinmetz, “Left our offense on the bus.”
Win #33: MERCHANT MARINES 58 YESHIVAH 77 (2/24/21)
Ranked #6 in the nation, the Macs flexed their muscles in a second-half home drubbing of their conference rivals. This was a rematch from the previous season’s Skyline Conference quarterfinals when Yeshivah used a big second half to eliminate the Merchants and remained undefeated by repeating the feat almost a year later. Trailing 35-33 early in the second half, Matan Zucker flipped the switch with five straight points, and the Maccabees were on their way. What followed shortly after that was a 13-2 blitz, effectively sealing the contest. Ryan Turell dropped 30 points again, while Gabriel Leifer added 20 and brought down 16 boards for his third straight double-double. The prized #4 also had eight assists and key steals that led to 22 points in transition for Yeshivah, whose lead ballooned as the second half wore on.
Defense turning into offense is often said but very accurate,” echoed coach Steinmetz who said that was an ample reason for the second-half turnaround.
Win #34: SAINT JOSEPH’S 71 YESHIVAH 78
In a highly anticipated battle between the undefeated Macs and 26-3 Blue Jays, Yeshivah eked out a thrilling victory to keep their streak alive. Remember how we talked about needing to get “Lucky” a couple of times in a streak as grand as this one? This was another one where the Maccabees were more lucky than good enough to walk away with the victory.
Yeshivah began the contest on the front foot, taking an early 10 point lead, before a ST Joseph’s spurt cut that to just three. However, late buckets by Eitan Halpert and Gabriel Leifer bumped it up to 37-29 by the break.
Usually, when the Maccabees have a tight first half, they put the opposition away early in the second stanza. Still, the visitors seized momentum quickly and cut the deficit down to a single bucket. Akin to the rare single-digit wins throughout the streak, the Macs needed production out of their depth pool and received it courtesy of Oren Betesh, whose hot hand from downtown was a prelude to the 7-0 run repossessed the nine-point cushion. In the final minutes, the top 25 Blue Jays continued to linger and even had multiple chances to tie the game or even turn the tables on the Macs. But a 7-1 inflation ensued to seal the ballgame, with the Maccabees nailing their free throws late to wrap up the hard-fought victory.
Turell had 20, while Leifer brought down 13 rebounds in addition to his key 13 points.
Win #35: YU 71 SAINT JOSEPHS 62(3/1/21)
In recent articles, the players have pointed to this win as the “Glue game,” where they felt they were a family and not just a team on a mission. They also felt a newfound appreciation for who they were, where they were, and what they were doing. It’s because
these same Blue Jays took their slight loss to heart and went straight at the Macs on their home floor for a 35-27 clinical halftime lead.
“We were finally undone, and the urgency wasn’t there,” said Turell later, “Elliot walked into the locker room and was extremely calm, saying that they threw the first punch and if we just kept running our stuff, we’d beat them.”
But Yeshivah began the second half still a step slow before the unthinkable transpired.
“Gabe took charge, and we’ve seen him do plenty but never that before. He knew we needed a spark, and it was exactly what we needed because we got back to our game after that.”
For most of the contest, the now NO4 ranked Maccabees looked like their streak had reached its boiling point. But in reality, it was just getting started.
The “Mactastic” basketball we’ve all become accustomed to was promptly on display in the second stanza, for Yeshivah went on a 13-2 rip to seize a 38-37 lead. Minutes later, trailing once more, the Macs coined a 7-0 run to forge ahead 50-45. As the clock ran inside 90 seconds, Yeshivah’s superstars in Ryan Turell and Gabriel Leifer sealed the contest with an all-American type two-way intensity, leading a 10-2 spurt to dash the gallivant group out of St Josephs. The latter spurned a historic victory.
Ryan finished with a team-high 22 points, while Gabe recorded his fifth straight double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Ofek Reef added 12, Matan Zucker put up 10, and both bore down on the defensive end down the stretch to help seal the win.
Win#36: YESHIVAH 88 STEVENS 70 (3/8/21)
This would be the season finale for the 2021 Maccabees, who tied the second-longest winning streak in Men’s basketball by downing a reigning March Madness team in Steven’s to cap off the perfect 7-0 season. Eitan Halpert showed flashes of what he would become in 2022 with a 32 point outburst and went 6-7 from three-point land. Ryan Turell fell a point shy of his game average for the campaign yet still put up an impressive 25 points, while Ofek Reek reached double figures for the second straight night, adding in 10. YU carried over the second half intensity from their emotional win in ST Josephs and went on a 17-0 run to highlight a 49 point first half. The other side of the 20 minutes was more of the same, with Yeshivah building a lead as comfortable as 37 before Steven’s made the final score a bit more respectable in garbage time.
Overall, while there was no trophy or NCAA tournament, the Maccabees set themselves up for a “hoopla” in 2022, and as we sit just days before game 15, the streak has taken on a life of its own.
Win#37: YESHIVAH 90 LYNCOMING 54(11/6/21)
The #2 ranked Macs kicked off the new campaign in “Mactastic” fashion with a thrashing of the young squad from Pennsylvania. The victory put Yeshivah in sole possession of second place on the all-time Men’s D3 win-streak list. Ryan Turell began his senior season with a 32 point effort, as NBA scouts and media alike creeped closer to emphasize the potential impact of the young Jewish basketball star. Ofek Reef didn’t skip a beat with 16 points, and Eitan Halpert went 3 for 3 from downtown en route to 13 points in the evening. The contest was over before it started, but Yeshivah still had to make sure of it and did just that with a 31-5 run to take a 44-18 lead in the first half, and it was essentially; “Stat-padding” time from there.
Win #38: YESHIVAH 105 PENN ST SCHUYlKILL 52(11/7/21)
Sometimes great teams outdo themselves, and it was again on display in the Lamade Gymnasium that Sunday afternoon. Ryan Turell poured in 24 points, Gabriel Leifer added 11 points and brought down 11 boards for his first double-double of the season. In contrast, Ofek Reef added 19, and Eitan Halpert put up 12.
The margin of victory and culminating flow of the ballgame allowed for fan-favorites in Ethan Lasko and Jordan Armstrong to receive playing time which is a sight Macs nation want to get accustomed to, especially if Yeshivah dilapidates teams like this.
Win #39: EASTERN CONNECTICUT STATE 69 YESHIVAH 99(11/10/31)
The familiar sound of fans at the friendly confines of the Max Stern Athletic center saw Yeshivah coast to a blowout victory over ECST while also getting to enjoy the historic achievement of Gabriel Leifer, who became the fourth player in school history to bring down his 1,000th rebound.
Classically, Gabe also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds in the win, which was also his 30th of the winning streak. Ryan Turell did his thing with 27 points, Ofek Reef knocked down 7 field goals for most of his 18 points,
and yes, Ethan Lasko had a career night off the bench with 14.
Win#40: YESHIVAH 82 ST JOSEPHS(LI) 58
What better way than to record your 40th straight win over a conference rival? That’s what these Maccabees did, as they shrugged off a sluggish first half with a 43-25 second stanza in a rout at Danzi Center to open Skyline conference play.
The intimate signs of the Macs hitting their stride were late in the first half when Ryan Turell knocked down back-back threes for a 39-33 halftime cushion. The lead ballooned to 58-33 a few minutes out of intermission, and that was effectively the ballgame. Turell finished with 26 days while Reef and Zucker hit double-figures with 18 and 10 points, respectively.
Win #41: MOUNT SAINT VINCENT 49 YESHIVAH 81 (11/6/21)
Rinse, wash, repeat. That seemed to be the Maccabees formula as of this juncture in the streak because a tight 38-35 halftime lead developed into another laugher with a 15-4 blitz to open second-half play. It was too big of a deficit for the Dolphins to” Mount,” as Yeshivah ran them off the floor the rest of the way.
Eitan Halpert had himself a career night with 27 points, 18 of them coming on three’s. Ryan Turell had a subpar 18 for his lofty standards, while Matan Zucker added 9, and Joran Armstrong added a late 7 in garbage time.
Win #42: YESHIVAH 94 ST JOSEPHS(Brooklyn) 57(11/18/21)
The Maccabees went to Brooklyn and put on a show, dispatching the Bears and making a milestone night for superstar Ryan Turell all the much sweeter. Ryan eclipsed the 1,500 points mark for his career. The multi-time all American finished with 25 points, while Ofek Reef added 23, and Ethan Lasko hit double-figures again with 15.
Gabriel Leifer aided his classmates big night with a double-double consisting of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Win #43: PURCHASE 69 YESHIVAH 98(11/23/21)
It was a magical night for the most terrific tandem in Jewish basketball history and the pairing that has lifted this program off the ground. Ryan Turell and Gabriel Leifer both made history in the Macs’ schooling of Purchase, with Ryan moving into fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list by hitting the 1,550 points mark. At the same time, Leifer became the first player in school history with 500+ career assists. The two also posted double-doubles, with Turell pitching in for 26 points with 13 boards, while Gabe added 17 points and 14 rebounds. The aggressive play of Ofek Reef made it a stress-free evening for Macs Nation, as the 6’1 junior added 16 points by just putting his head down and heading to the basket. Joran Armstrong once again flashed potential with 11 points off the bench.
Win #44: MANHATTANVILLE 56 MACS 78(11/28/21) (NO1 after this)
We have now arrived at the game that transcended the stardom of Ryan Turell and the new top-ranked Macs. The historic 51 burger Turell served up propelled the “Comeback Macs” to their 44th straight win, which was enough to make them the top-ranked team in all the nation finally. YU trailed 28-16 in the early going and 32-26 at the break. But the “Turell takeover” show was given the green light for the big stage, as #11 led Yeshivah on a 13-0 run for a 48-38 lead just nine minutes into the second stanza. Moments later, an 11-2 surge continuously led by Turell upped the lead to 59-45, and it was full steam ahead from there. Turell dominated the rest of the way as well, with the Macs winning in blowout fashion, and that was all anyone needed to see to realize that this kid is a star in the making. The 51 points went viral as the requests for newspaper articles, TV features, and the interview came pouring in. Yeshivah also rose to #1 in D3 for the first time. The Macs weren’t just a team, they were celebrities, and Turell was no longer a star, rather a phenom.
Win #45: YESHIVAH 80 FARMINGDALE STATE 66(12/1/21)
This wasn’t going to be a breeze, and Yeshivah knew it for Farmingdale state had given these guys scares in the past. Nevertheless, the Macs pulled away late for a double-digit win to increase their intra- conference winning streak to 22. Eitan Halpert poured in a game-high 22, Ryan Turell went 9for 9 from the free-throw line and had 21 points, while Reef added 11 and Gabe added nine points with 11 assists.
As expected, the Maccabees started slowly before ripping off a 19-4 run for a 23-16 advantage midway through the first half, capped by a Turell slam dunk. Leading 38-35 after the break, Yeshivah put their conference rivals away with an 11-3 clip sparked by Jordan Armstrong, as his emphatic dunk ballooned the lead to 13.
But perhaps the most astonishing stretch of the game came with 12:00 minutes remaining, with Yeshivah widening their margin by stunning the hostile crowd with a 13-0 blitz for a 65-46 advantage, essentially sealing the contest.
Win #46: OLD WESTBURY 77 YESHIVAH 105(12/4/21)
Ryan Turell had a double-double with 28 points, 12 rebounds, sharpshooting star Eitan Halpert knocked down eight three’s accumulating 24 points, and Ofek Reef put up 20. Matan Zucker, meanwhile, contributed with 13 bench points as the Maccabees rolled a festive Hanukkah night that included a menorah lighting in the locker room before the game.
Win #47: YESHIVAH 94 BROOKLYN COLLEGE 48(12/6/21)
No spectators or 3,000 spectators, Yeshivah was going to put on a show. Ryan Turell came to Brooklyn and dropped 31 points, while Leifer netted a triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in the lopsided affair. Also shining bright were Matan Zucker and Oren Betesh, who dropped nine points each in garbage time.
Win #48: WASHINGTON COLLEGE 76 YESHIVAH 85(12/9/21)
Credit is due to Washington coming up to the Max Stern Athletic center early in the week to get accustomed to the cozy gym the top-ranked Macs call home. The urgency intensified throughout the contest, with Washington refusing to lay down until the final buzzer simply. The first half was filled with physicality, as the Shoremen led 38-36 before two late Turell three-pointers put the Macs back on top.
Ryan wasn’t done as the MVP frontrunner engineered a 7-0 run that was highlighted by his reverse dunk to extend the Yeshivah lead to 73-58 with 8:16 remaining, and it would be enough to fend off the feisty bunch from the nation’s capital.
Turell finished with an exceptional 25 points, while Gabriel Leifer produced his second straight triple-double, putting up 10 points, 16 rebounds, and 13 assists. Reef, who called Gabe “a Monster” after the game, had a monstrous performance himself by netting 20 points, while Eitan Halpert cashed in on his chances with five three’s which would wound up being key to the victory in the end.
Win #49: MEDGAR EVANS 59 YESHIVAH 104(12/11/21)
This was never supposed to be remotely close, especially with the Macs having a quick turnaround days after a close game with a subpar squad. Ryan Turell dropped 38 points in a clinical outing, including six treys; the red-hot Reef poured in 16, while Oren Betesh had a career game with 12 points.
Leading by an insurmountable margin, Jordan Armstrong and Eitan Halpert were given abundant opportunities to help share the wealth and did with each netting 11 points, respectively. The Bears played inspired ball, initially taking a 20-14 lead, but a 22-4 Yeshivah drubbing effectively bid them goodnight.
Win #50: YESHIVAH 93 NJCU 86(12/15/21)
Contrary to recent play, Yeshivah didn’t need time to get going, as they trampled on the Gothic Knights for a 49-28 halftime advantage and seemed to be exuberant to their 50th straight win with ease. This seemed even more apparent when the Macs opened up a 71-48 lead with 12:00 left in the game. But New Jersey wouldn’t succumb to adversity so rapidly and fought their way back using a 29-13 run, slicing the lead to 84-77 with 3:30 remaining.
Ofek Reef, however, saw this as his time to shine, with the Junior knifing through the defense for a three-point play, increasing the advantage to 88-80. NJCU would pull within four with 90 seconds remaining, but the Maccabees hit their free throws and collected defensive rebounds down the stretch to barely escape the home of the turnpike unscathed. Consecutive win #50 was officially in the books.
As for the box score, Ryan Turell obliterated the Gothic Knights with 41 points, while Ofek Reef added 20.
GAME 51: VS #4 ILLINOIS WESLEYAN (12/30/21)
As historic as this streak is, there’s one caveat that still has D3 committee voters in disarray, and that is the fact that the Maccabees haven’t defeated a top 10 team (Let alone a top 5 team) at any point throughout these two years. That opportunity will arise on Thursday night when the Macs host #4 Illinois Wesleyan Titans in a battle that could very well determine who the next D3 #1 will be. Illinois is the most demanding test Yeshivah has come across in over two years because they’re a team that can beat you in various ways, with their top-ranked defense(35th overall in Points allowed per game) in most analytical metrics being the most prominent. Illinois Wesleyan (8-2) also has a lot of experience playing against the best teams in the nation, including a critical victory over No. 17 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 65-63, in November. IWU has played three nationally-ranked opponents in 10 games but has been outworked in losses to NO8 Wheaton(67-62) and Washington University at home(71-61). Last year, Illinois Wesleyan finished as the country’s third-ranked team right behind Yeshivah and took home their conference championship. It’s also noteworthy that Illinois Wesleyan has been practicing at the Max Stern Athletic Center for three days, rare for a visiting team. Still, since their December 29th matchup against familiar Macs foe Mount Saint Vincent was scrapped due to COVID, their full attention is on the spectacle they’ve been waiting for.
The Macs will look to none other than two-time all-American and MVP frontrunner in senior Ryan Turell, averaging 29.8 points per game this season, which ranks him No. 2 across all three NCAA divisions to be the X-factor in this contest. NBA scouts will undoubtedly be tuned in as they try to determine whether this D3 phenom is 2022 NBA draft-worthy this upcoming Summer.
Lawrence native Gabriel” Walking double-double” Leifer is the only player in Division III men’s basketball to generate multiple triple-doubles this year as well. The reigning Academic All-American Team Member of the Year has scored 1,447 points, grabbed 1,121 rebounds, and has dished out 569 assists during his illustrious career per YUmacs.com.
Ofek Reef, the defending Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year, is netting 16.9 points per game and isn’t afraid to play aggressively, for most of his points are from mid-range or down-low. But to be a team on a 50 game winning streak, you must have exquisite perimeter play in this evolutionary game of basketball, and Eitan Halpert fills that role perfectly, for the sniper is 51.2% from downtown in 14 games this season and is averaging 13.7 points per game.
Halpert is also modeling the team on defense with a team-leading 27 steals this season, while Joran Armstrong has 15 blocks and can get his “Long arms” in the face of the opposing offense. The plan of attack for Yeshivah per coach Elliot Steinmetz won’t change because of the opponent. “It’s just another game. There are good background stories here with the rankings etc. But this game counts as much as any other regular-season game. It will be a good experience for our guys, though, to face a strong team like this.
With all that being said, No changes are anticipated. We like our crew, and we will attack with them as always.”
That means they will rely heavily on the five-person motion offense, which means while many teams think the ball runs through Turell, backdoor plays, and disciplined ball movement is the real bread & butter of Yeshiva University. However, getting out in transition will be tricky for Illinois Wesleyan ranks 16th in all of D3 in turning the ball over and 54th in fewest fouls at 128.
The Titans boast Matthew Leritz, averaging a double-double per game with 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds while joining Leifer and Turell on academic and athletic all-American teams. But the X-factor production for the Titans will arise from Peter Lambesis, who will likely be guarding Ryan Turell, who will be forced to dig deep into his arsenal for points ok Thursday.
Pete has been strong on both ends of the floor for Illinois Wesleyan as he is averaging 12.1 points per game, but most importantly forcing 13 steals per contest, while big man Luke Yoder can match up well with Gabe Leifer, for he has 29 assists to his name with 10.1 blocks per 40 minutes.
This week’s game at Yeshiva will mark the first time IWU has competed against a member of the Skyline Conference in program history, which means the Macs aren’t only playing for themselves and repressing their prestigious division tomorrow night as well.
The top-five matchup between IWU and YU will feature two of the best sharpshooting teams Division III has to offer. Yeshiva is averaging 9.9 three-pointers per game which ranks fifth, but the Titans haven’t allowed more than eight three-pointers in a game yet this season. Oh, and did we mention that Illinois Wesleyan are two wins away from career dub #1700? They will no doubt cherish this one if they’re able to knock off these Maccabees tomorrow.
Illinois is likely to attack from the inside with their size and strength, but knowing they’ve likely adjusted to the “Rafter effect” at YU, also means they will be shooting from the outside an abundance of times.
The officiating style will be an essential factor. IWU is used to a physical, rough-them-up, “let ’em play” style in CCIW/midwest division. If NYC officials go by the letter of the law, Yeshivah will be one step ahead of things, at least in the early going.
This will no doubt be a battle or adjustments and execution. The game’s flow is likely to slow to a crawl at some point, with both teams unwilling to unravel, fully aware of the consequences that the opposition will face. If one team gets a hefty lead, you can be sure the other will punch back in the blink of an eye. It’s precisely why this game is on national television, as JLTV will be simulcasting the Macs live feed tomorrow night.
The simulation website for D3 hoops(masseyratings.com) says 75-72 in favor of the Titans, but I’ll go with something along those lines but the opposite way.
Illinois Wesleyan 68
It will be a battle in the trenches, but ultimately I think Yeshivah is too good to fail. That comeback victory over Saint Joseph’s(Win#35) and how the players reflected on that comeback show just how driven they are and backed by a raucous home crowd will exponentially work in their favor.
It won’t be pretty, but it will be what we, as basketball fans, all want, which is a fair, dramatic, and intense battle between two of the top teams in Division 3 basketball.