Basketball tournament participants look to shine in individual skills competition

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By Benjamin Gonzalez
For Mitzpeh
@benyamin155

Several NHBT participants showed up to the Xfinity Center to try their skills in individual contests: the 3-point contest, the dunk contest, and the skills challenge Saturday afternoon.

The first competition of the day was the 3-point contest. Participants arrived early to get some shots in before the scoring rounds began. Once the scorekeepers were ready, competitors took two shots each from five positions around the court for a total of 10 shots.

To ensure the competition stayed on schedule, competitors were spread out across different courts. The top shooters from each court advanced to the next round, where they took three shots from the same five positions.

The men’s 3-point final was composed of the four best shooters. Each wore a jersey with the name of the school they represented: Maryland, Yeshiva University, Brooklyn and Texas. While the player representing Brooklyn took his shots, a chant from behind the basket began. Two men cheered him on by shouting, “Brooklyn! Brooklyn! Brooklyn!”

However, their support was for naught.

After each shooter had taken four shots from the five positions around the 3-point line, a winner was crowned. Zach Silberman, a freshman letters and sciences student at the University of Maryland, took home the trophy for making 11 of his 20 shots.

In the women’s final, only two participants took to the court. Nina Leibowitz, a senior business major from Emory University, knocked down enough shots to be named winner of the women’s contest.

Once the winners were decided, they were handed their trophies and given the chance to compete in one more round against former Maccabi Tel Aviv professional basketball player David Blu. Silberman and Leibowitz impressed with their shooting once again, hitting 12-of-20 and 9-of-20, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to beat David Blu’s 15-of-20 shooting.

Next, onlookers turned their focus to the dunk contest.

National Hillel Basketball Tournament organizers set up a table between the half court line and the 3-point line for the three judges. Blu sat down at the table as one of the judges. Two players took turns dunking, patiently waiting for the judges to hold up the scores after each dunk.

After the dunkers ran out of ideas, the judges made their decision about the winner. Sam Gordon, a recent graduate of the finance master’s program at Johns Hopkins University, was the unanimous winner. His last dunk was a cleanly executed windmill that earned him a 10 from each of the judges.

Spectators began chanting “Encore!” after Gordon accepted his trophy. He obliged and, on his second attempt, smacked down an alley-oop on a pass from his friend who lobbed the ball above the glass from behind the basket.

The last event of the day was the skills challenge.

Although the skills challenge is usually an individual event, event organizers split all the participants into four teams of four and had two teams compete against each other at a time. All members of the teams had to dribble around the outside of four chairs, pass the ball through a hoop, make a layup and sprint back down the court and drain a 3-pointer.

In all of the team runs through the course, at least one team member had issues remembering to dribble around the chairs. At the end of it, a group made up of participants all from different schools split two trophies amongst themselves. The event capped off an exciting afternoon of individual skill showcases.

The thought on everyone’s mind at the end? Dinner.

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