Beth T’filoh’s boys’ basketball team knew its hopes of returning to the MIAA C Conference finals hinged on its defensive commitment. The Warriors answered the challenge Wednesday and moved closer to gaining redemption.
Beth T’filoh defeated Park School, 56-43, in a semifinal contest at Hurwitz Gym in Pikesville. The Warriors will rematch with Chapelgate Christian Academy for the league crown Tuesday afternoon at 5 p.m. at Gilman School’s Finney Center.
Tani Weissman scored 14 points for Beth T’filoh (20-10 overall) and A.J. Hurwitz and Josh Flax contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively. Mark Rothleitner led Park (11-10) with 15 points and Brandon Keiser added 10.
The Warriors outscored their Old Court Road corridor rivals, 10-3, over the final four minutes of regulation to claim the rubber match. Beth T’filoh coach Brian Hubbard said the postseason is all about defense.
“Defense wins championships, and I think the more possessions you have offensively, you’re making your opponents work defensively,” said Hubbard. “We want to slow down it offensively, speed it up defensively.”
“We just adjusted our defense, the man was a little shaky and our press wasn’t working too well,” said Flax. “It’s all about putting in effort and committing.”
The Bruins went more than six minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter, producing only five free throws in the stretch. The Brooklandville school was within 46-40 midway in the fourth after two free throws by Keiser.
Following a free throw by Adam Venick, the Warriors forced a turnover and Hurwitz buried a three-pointer from the corner, upping the lead to 50-40 with 2:37 left in regulation. Beth T’filoh finished off Park, converting six of eight from the free throw line.
The Bruins won the prior meeting, 68-59, as Park center Rodney Hill went for 29 points. The 6-foot-8 senior center managed just seven Wednesday as the Warriors quickly double teamed him in the post.
“That was unacceptable,” said Weissman of the last meeting. “We just really stepped it up on defense and ball pressure.”
It didn’t appear it would be a defensive struggle at the outset with Beth T’filoh racing out to an 18-13 first quarter advantage. The pace slowed as Weissman’s basket gave the Warriors their biggest first half margin at 24-15 late.
Rothleitner brought Park to 29-28 with a three-pointer with 4:38 left in the third, but Beth T’filoh answered with a 10-2 closing run as Hurwitz dropped another three-pointer from the corner. Venick opened the fourth with steal at halfcourt and layup, extending the lead to 41-30.
Keiser ended a five-minute field goal drought with a three-pointer before two free throws made it 46-40. The Bruins didn’t score again until a three-pointer by Seth Gelblum with under a minute left in regulation.
The Bruins had five field goals over the final 16 minutes of regulation. Park coach Josh Wolf said his team simply had no answer for Beth T’filoh’s defensive tenacity.
“They wanted it in transition, they wanted it between the foul lines and their pressure was amazing,” said Wolf. “The pressure forced a lot of turnovers and got us out of our offense. They played a great game.”
It’s down to one game for the Warriors, who will get another shot at Chapelgate, the two-time reigning league champs. The Yellowjackets, unbeaten in their last 26 league contests (including postseason), swept Beth T’filoh (57-39 and 73-54) during the regular season.
“I think we’re going to have to play smarter and value the basketball,” said Hubbard, whose team lost, 64-47, in last year’s title game at Gilman. “They have four incredible seniors who make timely shots. We’re going to have to slow the tempo down, get good possessions and play hard.”
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|Beth T’filoh 56, Park School 43|
|Park: Rothleitner 15, Hill 7, Keiser 10, Ginsberg 1, Gelblum 3, Lyalko 6, Abrams 1. Totals: 13 12-22 43.|
|Beth T’filoh: Sharpiro 6, Hurwitz 13, Venick 9, Chason 2, Flax 12. Weissman 14. Totals: 18 14-23 56.|
|Halftime: Beth T’filoh 24, Park 20|