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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Falcon's Nest Notes: Senior Moments

Varsity Girls Volleyball and Varsity Boys & Girls Basketball Close Out the Regular Season in Style
The Seniors show off their new jackets
Starting with Girls Volleyball and ending with Girls Basketball, with Boys Basketball sandwiched in between, the Flatbush Falcons Fall/Winter regular season home schedule came to a close with three exciting match-ups that would send our graduating senior student-athletes off with great fanfare.
Varsity Girls Volleyball got Senior Week off to a big start as they hosted MYHSAL -leading and undefeated- Central Yeshiva University HS for Girls. Before the game, Head Coach Evelyn Shterenzer presented each of her graduating seniors with a special jacket, emblazoned with each player’s name and number on the front, and a crowned volleyball on the back containing the name of every senior player on the team. Of the token, Senior Co-Captain Renee Sutton had this to say: “I was shocked! It was so nice! No one has ever done anything like that for us before.” Co-Captain Danielle Shalam added, “I LOOOVE it! What a great feeling! It shows that we really accomplished something!” The presentation was followed by outstanding renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner & Hatikvah from Flatbush Choir member and fellow student-athlete Merle Cohen.
Merle Cohen Sings

With the energy high and the players primed and ready, the Falcon servers took the game right to their top-ranked opponents. From top to bottom, the entire rotation consistently dropped in their serves with multiple runs of points recorded by Eileen Sutton, Danielle Shalam , Celia Tawil and Renee Sutton. Throughout the contest, Central displayed exactly why they are the top team in the League, digging out tough serves, making crisp passes and looking to place their returns. But the Falcons definitely came to play. Solid serving staked Flatbush to an early lead, and with quality returns, they kept the pressure on. And, for the first time all season, the Falcons appeared to play above the net, making deft passes and even dropping a spike in the central defense. When the dust settled, the Falcons were first to 25, outscoring Central by 4 points to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Renee Sutton gets things started right for the Falcons
Danielle Shalam keeps the ball in play
Game two started out in similar fashion, with Eileen Setton staking the home squad to an early 5-0 lead. There was a palpable energy in the Falcon’s Nest! The crowd – unaccustomed to the tennis-like rules of etiquette demanding quite prior to each serve – needed to be calmed by the referee, and the Central coach was noticeably shaken. But as quickly as the lead was built, the Falcons gave it right back, equally unable to break the Central ace’s serves, and the game was soon knotted at 6-6. At that point, the momentum swing was on in full. Central maintained a consistency throughout the match, but Flatbush’s serving began to falter. With unforced service errors, the Falcons soon fell behind, and could not overcome the deficit, falling in game 2 by a score of 25-19.
Rochelle Tawil gives the team a lift
Celia Tawil nearly lifts the Falcons over the top in Game 4
The rest of the match followed the same format, with Flatbush jumping out to an early lead, only to find Central scratch back into the game, eventually taking the lead. In an effort to stem the tide, Coach Shterenzer inserted diminutive setter Rochelle Tawil. With power belying her size, Tawil ripped off consecutive serves while also digging out tough returns, energizing the home squad and rejuvenating the Falcon netters. Flatbush closed the gap, but could not get over the hump and fell in game three, 25-20. Game four looked to be more of the same – early falcon lead, mid-game Central rally and a Falcon fade to close out the game. But the Falcons proved resilient. With offense-defense substitutions (Lorraine Shamie and Becky Waldman on to solidly return serves coupled with Celia Tawil for power serving), the Falcons slowly scratched at the Central lead. With the crownd rocking the Falcon’s Nest, Celia Tawil took over service. With the pressure on, Tawil rose up and ripped off three consecutive serves, bringing the Falcons to the brink of pushing the match to a fifth and deciding game. But it was not to be. Tied at 23, Central successfully took back position, and with a one point lead, served out the match, sealing the game 25-23 and taking the contest three games to one. A disappointing loss, but a definite moral victory in that the Falcons, now 6-4 (all 4 losses came to the division leading Central and SKA squads) and headed for a first round play-off match at Ma’ayanot, stood toe-to-toe with the League leaders and nearly pulled off the upset of the season!

Senior Boys Send-Off
Varsity Falcons
Next up were the Boys Varsity Basketball Seniors. With two-thirds of this year’s team made up of seniors, Tuesday (2/4/14) nights pre-game ceremonies were certain to be emotional, and longer than most. After speeches from Co-Captains Nathan Haddad and Michael Shalom, in which they recounted the positive experience of playing four years in a Flatbush Falcons basketball uniform, and citing how much they have gown as players and people from the experience, Head Coach Avi Borenstein presented each senior with a personalized plaque and team photo to remember their time as a Falcon hoopster. Senior Murray Mizrahi reflected, “It was so nice. I can’t remember the team ever doing this before [on Senior Night]!” Following player introductions, Aida Franco (accompanied by Flatbush Choirmaster Brian Gelfand) gave a jaw-dropping performance of the Star-Spangled Banner & Hatikvah.
Co-Captain, Michael Shalom,
Reflects on His Time as a Falcon
With the ceremonies completed, the game took center stage. With a starting line-up of seniors Victor Silverman, Aaron Harari, Shawn Blinder and Co-Captains Michael Shalom and Nathan Haddad, the ball was up and the game was on. Blinder controlled the tip, and for four minutes, the Falcons and the guests from HANC played even-steven. At that point, Coach Borenstein inserted the two Joey’s – Dayon & Dweck – along with Murray Mizrahi, and the Falcons went on an offensive spurt that staked the team to a lead they would never relinquish. With added scoring punch from reserve Senior Guard Michael Haddad and a strong rebounding presence provided by Mizrahi, Blinder and Silverman, the Falcons built on their lead. Coach Borenstein utilized nearly the entire bench in the first half, a stalwart strength of the team all season, in building the lead to double-digits at the half.
Aida Franco Sings

Clutch From the Line
The second half saw complacency set in, which is not a good thing for a team that relies in intensity as the key ingredient for success. As a result, the Falcons lost some of their rhythm and became lax in their offensive execution. The lack of efficiency by the Falcons began to give the guests from HANC some confidence. As a result, the Hurricanes began whittling away at the Flatbush lead. Late in the contest, HANC closed the gap, making it a two-possession game with less than one minute to play. With the clock winding down, HANC put the Flatbush Varsity hoopsters on the foul line in a last-ditch effort to push past the Falcons and tarnish Senior Night. But, the Falcons took what was an early season weakness and showed that it is now a strength. On successive possessions, Joey Dayon and Murray Mizrahi went to the charity stripe and calmly knocked down key free throws to ice the game, and send the Seniors, their teammates and the Flatbush faithful home with a 55-50 victory.
Victor Silverman dives for a loose ball
Brothers on defense for Flatbush!
Nathan Haddad on the move!

Girls Basketball Welcomes Hurricanes From the South
The Flatbush Falcons before their final home game of the season
The following night, the Falcon Varsity Girls welcomed a different set of Hurricanes, these ones making the trip north through the frozen slush from Hillel Yeshiva in Deal, NJ. In following the scene set by their male counterparts, the Senior Varsity Girls basketballers were sent off with a grand ceremony in their final home game of their high school careers (the playoffs will be on the road for theses Falcons, only the opponent is yet to be determined). Opening with words of praise for their accomplishments offered by Head Coach Rozan Mizrahi, Senior Co-Captains Alison Kassin and Rachel Linfield followed with memories of their own from their respective long and short histories as Falcon Basketball players. Like the boys, the Senior girls were presented with a personalized plaque and team picture. About the gift afterwards, Senior Co-Captain Alison Kassin offered, “This is so nice! I love it!” To close out the ceremonies, following introductions of both team’s starters, Merle Cohen stepped from the team bench and gave a grand performance of the national anthems of the USA and Israel. With the preliminaries properly dispensed, it was time for the final tip of the home season.
Co-Captains Alison Kassin and Rachel Linfield address the crowd
Merle Cohen sings, and the team joins in!

Senior Starting Five
The five seniors on the floor together
For the first time, Coach Mizrahi placed her five seniors on the court for the opening tip. Co-Captain Alison Kassin stepped into the circle surrounded by her fellow Seniors: Lauren Berkovits, Robyn Saad, Jackie Baum and Co-Captain Rachel Linfield. The Flatbush girls were sharp on defense, denying their guests from Deal, but could not capitalize on the offensive end. After a short time with neither team taking control, Coach Mizrahi inserted Junior Center Merle Cohen and Sophomore Guard Victoria Gindi, and the Falcon offense started to mesh. Moving the ball with crisp control, the Falcons created open lanes and started finding clear paths to the basket. And, with Cohen anchoring the defense, the Hurricanes could not find an open look inside. Slowly the Falcons built a small cushion. Late in the first half, the Falcons really found their groove. Looking like the Energizer Bunny, reserve Guard Rose Mishaan gave a jolt of energy to her teammates. And, along with Jennifer Maleh, the Falcons caused the Hillel 5 to commit turnover after turnover, converting the fast break opportunities into Falcon points. The second half brought more of the same. It was like watching the passing of a torch from the old to the young. With Kassin and Linfield providing the leadership, they created scoring opportunities for their Sophomore teammates, giving the Falcon fans a glimpse of what they can expect next season as Gindi, Maleh and Mishaan, alongside Junior Merle Cohen, will be the mainstays of the Flabush attack in 2014-15. But for all the scoring punch provided by the Falcon neophytes, the game was controlled by the suffocating Flatbush defense, a key element in every Falcon win this season. When the final buzzer sounded, the Falcons stood tall, with a 33-21 victory for their efforts.
Rose Mishaan swats away the pass!
Merle Cohen rips down a rebound and looks to start the fast break
The scoreboard tells it all!

Nest Notes:
Due to a snow out last Monday (2/3/14), the Boys actually closed out their home season on Saturday night (2/8/14) with a tough loss to HAFTR, ranked 4th nationally amongst Yeshiva schools. After trailing by double-digits at the half, the Falcons never quit and “won” the second half, falling to the Hawks by a score of 52-43. The team was lead in scoring by the Haddad brothers; 16 for Nathan and 8 for Michael.

The Flatbush Girls JV Basketball team also had a rescheduled date with HAFTR to close out their regular season due to snow last Monday. The girls travelled to Long Island and avenged an earlier loss by eking out a 5 point victory over the host Hawks, 39-34. The win completes a 5-5 regular season for the JV Falcons. On the night, the team was led in scoring by Sarah Horowitz who tallied 23 points, a career high for the Flatbush rookie. With the win, the Falcons will draw the Ma’ayanot Rapids as their first round opponent in the MYHSAL playoffs; the game is scheduled for Thursday, 2/20, at 8:00 pm.

While we must wait to learn where the Flatbush Girls Varsity Basketball team will be travelling to for their opening round playoff games, the Flatbush Boys will held their 1st round playoff games this week. The Varsity Boys opened the postseason with a rematch win of the Sackin Classic, hosting rival Magen David Yeshiva on Tuesday, 2/11. The JV boys, top seed in the Brooklyn Division by virtue of their 10-0 record in division will host Yeshiva Rambam on Thursday, 2/13. Weather permitting, the game will tip-off at 8:15 pm.

The Flatbush Varsity Girls Volleyball team will be travelling to Ma’ayanot Yeshiva in New Jersey for their first round playoff match with the top-seeded Rapids. The game is scheduled for Wednesday, 2/19, at 7:00 pm.

The Flatbush Hockey program is also gearing up for the playoffs. The JV team will be travelling to New Jersey to take on TABC (date and time TBA). The Varsity will be hosting HANC (also, date and time TBA). Please note that this game will also double as Senior Night for the Flatbush Hockey program.

Come out and support your hometown Flatbush athletes in the MYHSAL playoffs. GO FALCONS!