Pierce students win at National Hillel Basketball Tournament

Pierce students win at National Hillel Basketball Tournament

A group of Pierce College students beating out teams from the University of Texas and UCLA at a collegiate basketball tournament? Yes, it happened. 

Brahmas Aharon Sinai, Arshia Kohanteb, Ben Sinai, Daniel Nikravesh, David Paz, Etai Turgeman and Josh Mahgerefteh participated in the National Hillel Basketball Tournament (NHBT), which is an annual event for Jewish college students that ran March 28-31 at the University of Maryland. They were the sole community college team of this year’s tournament, according to NHBT staff. 55 teams total—from 26 schools—participated and were divided by 41 men’s teams and 14 women’s teams.

The Pierce Team was placed toward the top of Tier 5 after losing the first three placement games against Yeshiva University (48-25), Baruch College (34-23) and the University of Maryland (34-25). 

Point guard David Paz noted that the team improved their chemistry throughout the tournament. 

“After that game, we had a team meeting, we reunited and we played pretty well,” Paz said. “And those games after that, we won every single one, we played well together and got the job done.”

The Pierce Team won their next three tournament games against UCLA (49-36), the University of Texas (47-23) and Michigan State University (38-22), and became the Men’s Tier 5 Champions. 

In the first game—against UCLA—the Brahmas lacked some hustle but experimented with defense, according to Paz.

“And then we had a timeout, we all got together, we’re like, ‘OK, if we don’t win this game, we’re out of the tournament,’” Paz said. “That was kind of like the moment where we woke up and were like, ‘OK, we need to actually step up and take care of business.’ So that’s what we did—we played hard, we were making our shots, everybody was contributing to the team the way that they could and it turned out good.”

The team’s connection improved as they played each game, according to point guard and team captain Arshia Kohanteb. 

“As the tournament progressed, we learned how to play with each other, we learned how to balance off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and toward the end we really became a powerhouse,” Kohanteb said.

A few free agents—that the Pierce players knew from their community—were also added to their team. The players lost together, learned from their challenges and advanced as a team, said shooting guard Josh Mahgerefteh. 

“What we have to do is that we have to box out or we have to have that last-second hustle play or we have to go after the ball,” Mahgerefteh said. “Basically, until the whistle is blown, we go, we go, we go, and then if there needs to be an adjustment, either Arshia or I would make that adjustment.” 

Though it was a basketball tournament, a strong element of the event was about meeting and connecting with new people, explained Mahgerefteh.

“Friday night when we were all sitting for dinner, we started cracking jokes about how we lost by 25, and then we started talking about, ‘What major are you going into? What school are you from? What do you want to study? What do you want to do in life?’” Mahgerefteh said. “That’s what was really the heartwarming thing that we got from the tournament.”

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