There is one thing in the world that basketball coaches hate more than disrespect, laziness, and selfishness: foul trouble.
When a key player collects too many fouls too early in a game, he/she usually has to ride the bench for long stretches to avoid "fouling out" (in high school and college, five fouls earn a disqualification; in the NBA, the number is six). So what’s a coach to do when four of her five starters are each one foul away from fouling out in the final quarter of the championship game?
Play on and, in Frisch’s case, win.
The Frisch School of Paramus celebrated its first JV girls’ Metropolitan Yeshiva League basketball championship in 10 years with this year’s high-scoring 66-56 win over North Shore Academy. Entering the fourth quarter of the game, with the score 48-45 in Frisch’s favor, co-coaches Stephanie and Assi Amos a husband-and-wife coaching duo had four of their five starters one foul away from leaving the game.
"I put all five starters in for the fourth quarter," said Stephanie, "and I told them, ‘That’s it. You gotta play your hearts out, because it’s now or never.’"
The three-point lead eventually ballooned to a 10-point winning margin thanks to clutch shooting from championship MVP Sarah Bendji, who scored ” points including a buzzer-beating three-pointer that put Frisch up by three points at the end of the first half. Meanwhile, Talia Schlussell scored 17 points and played shut-down defense against North Shore’s star player, who was limited to 9 points.
The championship game provided the final exclamation point on a perfect 13-0 season.
"I love these girls. They were amazing," said Stephanie. "Beyond the basketball skills, they really had beautiful hearts and they were wonderful girls. They were a lot of fun, and they were all menschesthere were no problems on the court, and everybody got along."
The championship team included captains Bendji and Danielle Brinn, as well as Schlussell, Shaina Stiefel, Katie diller, Sheina Emrani, Samantha Hod, Ricki Katz, Lani Lichtiger, Talya Miller, Talia Mizikovsky, Arielle Sandor, Samara Schaum, Deborah Schwitzer, Rosie Spiegel, and Samona Sufian.
The championship game atoned for last year’s championship loss, and couldn’t have come in a more suspenseful fashion.
"It was a very competitive game," said Stephanie, "and it was anyone’s to win until the last four minutes, when we really turned it around."