Team Mandell takes rec league hoops title tournament
Published 9:50 am, Monday, March 20, 2017
Playing in its last rec basketball March Madness tournament, one team made a run for the ages in the 11th and 12th grade division.
Team Mandell, also known as the Colgate Fighting Pickles, won the double elimination high school tournament by winning seven games in a row while playing for three-and-a-half hours straight. Many of these wins came against well rested teams, while the six-man squad had to play back to back to back games without much of a break.
"We knew it would be a tough road, but once we got rolling we felt we could do it," said point guard Cayne Mandell in a press release.
The Pickles lost in the quarterfinals during the first night of play, putting them in the losers bracket for the second night with a long haul to get to the top. But they were a team of friends, purposefully drafted together and it was clear they played for each other and had each others' backs all season.
After winning the first two games of the night with great play from forward Michael Zapfel, their first test loomed in the third. They had to play Team Zinn who had knocked them out the prior night of play as well as beat them in the regular season. Defense was the key to this tough win, guard Jesse Levinson and forward Gus Cardello denied the offense good shots. They would continue to do the same for all the rest of the games that followed.
In the next game against Team Wick, center Ziggy Hallgarten dominate and help to get the other team in foul trouble which Team Mandell continued to take advantage of by hitting their shots and allowing time to run off the clock.
"This was the only way I would want to end senior year, play with my best friends one last time," said Hallgarten, "It was the most surreal night and a crazy journey."
The fifth game was the true test. Team Daniels was undefeated in the regular season and was well rested waiting for the bracket to catch up them. Yet again the swarming defense held their opponents at bay coupled with guard Cayne Mandell and forward Ben Harizman taking over, scoring multiple three pointers and hitting their free throws to finish on the upside.
It was now time for the finals against last year's winning coach and Team O'Neil. Since it was a double elimination tournament, Team Mandell would have to beat them twice to secure the crown and with only six players the team was getting weary.
The O'Neil team seeing their fatigue opened up the game running, but Team Mandell's defense held them off. The guards controlled the pace and walked the ball up and were patient in looking for shots, all to conserve energy. Regardless, members of the team cramped up and had to be taken out of the game, only to drink some water and get back in to give their next teammate a breather. Once again holding another lead toward the end, a fouling spree initiated by Team O'Neil proved fruitless as Harizman rose to the occasion and drained his multiple shots from the charity line. They won their sixth game.
"Once we won the first game against them, I knew we could win the next," said forward Ben Harizman. "This was one of the best nights of my life."
Team O'Neil opened up to take a lead in the second and deciding finals game, but Team Mandell countered, took over the lead and never looked back, finding energy in the moment and securing their championship.
"Warriors is the only word for what I saw out there, true girt and heart" said Coach Matthew Mandell, on how his team played. "There was never a moment when one guy on that team was not taking a lead role and pulling the others along, it was a great and total team win."