For the past four years the seniors have set the tone for the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy so with a capacity filled gym at a fever pitch well before tip-off against rival Kohelet Yeshiva Feb. 7, the underclassmen wanted to make sure the seniors received a proper send off in their final regular season home game against a team that defeated them just two weeks into the season.
With bodies flying as fans from both sides pleaded for foul calls, it was Barrack junior Elliott Bernstein who seemed to be on a mission in the second half to help deliver the win. Seemingly grabbing every rebound or making key passes that turned into points, Bernstein helped the Cougars establish a seven-point fourth quarter lead before senior Cory Barnet took center stage knocking down seven of eight free throws down the stretch to help Barrack earn the heart-stopping 53-50 win.
“It was amazing,’ said Barnet, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three steals. “Kohelet is a rivalry game and to have them as our final game made it very exciting. To come away with the win is a great feeling.’
“I have been playing with most of these guys for three or four years and some since elementary school so I knew it wouldn’t feel right to see the seniors go out with a loss in the final regular season home game,’ said Bernstein, who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, one block and one steal. “I knew we had to win.’
Coach Rob Kushner added, “It’s a storybook ending for this senior class and I couldn’t ask for anything better. This group of five seniors (two of which are starters) has held us together all year and have done a great job as leaders.’
Holding a 33-29 lead early in the fourth, Bernstein and Barnet took control down the stretch with Bernstein dishing out key assists and grabbing clutch rebounds while Barnet did his job offensively and defensively to help secure the win.
As if there was any reason to make a game against Kohelet any more meaningful, Barrack found a way partnering with Coaches vs. Cancer. Proceeds from the Feb. 7 contest were donated to this important cause.
“Certainly everyone knows someone affected by cancer,’ said Bernstein, who is the junior class president. “Playing for such a great cause adds another level of intensity to know you are playing for something greater than yourself.’
Kushner added, “It makes the evening very special. This is our first year partnering with Coaches vs. Cancer. It is a great cause surrounded by basketball and it was great to see the community come out and support a great cause on a special night.’
With the curtain coming down in dramatic fashion for the regular season, the Cougars will need to remain sharp as they head into the Tri-County League tournament as well as making their maiden voyage into the Pennsylvania Independent Schools state tournament.
“Tonight was great test for the playoffs,’ Kushner said. “You need to learn how to win close games in the playoffs and we did that tonight.’
As Barrack prepares to bid farewell to its senior class consisting of Barnet, Or Ayash, Avi Solomon, Michael Zlotnick and Noam Schey, Kushner is excited for the future which includes Bernstein, Zach Lipstein, Sammy Turk-Tolub and David Gordon to name a few.
“These seniors have meant so much to the program,’ Bernstein said. “They taught us we need to bring intensity every day and play games like we practice. We know to continue our success we have to continue doing what they started.’
Kushner said, “Losing these seniors and their leadership is going to be a tough thing to replace but we have kids who have been in the program for a couple of years and are ready to step up and take control.’
Before Barrack starts focusing on the future they have mindset on the present.