The USA’s Maccabiah teams dominated the basketball tournament’s final games Monday, as medals were handed out to hundreds of athletes in team and individual sports all around Israel. A small number of events will take place Tuesday, before the “Jewish Olympics” officially end.
Led by Daniel Rubin’s fine 26-point performance, the US men’s open team overcame a tough Argentinian side to win the tournament’s basketball championship. “It’s awesome,” Rubin told the Times of Israel right after the victory. The games and his first ever trip to Israel “were the best time of my life.”
On the losing side, Andres Berman — who led Argentina’s efforts with an outstanding 29 points and received a standing ovation from the 1,800 spectators at the end of the game — said he was excited to be wearing the silver medal. “We played with all our heart against the US,” the skilled guard said, and “that’s what matters.”
Israel’s open team finished third, something basketball legend Tal Brody said “wasn’t acceptable.” The former Maccabi USA and blue-and-white national team player said that while the tournament was at a very high level, Israel needed to send its best team and help the country’s sporting reputation.
In the women’s open hoops category, the US defeated Israel 72-56 to win gold, while the Canadian team finished third. US captain Jacqueline Kalin, who’s scheduled to play professional basketball in Israel next year, scored 22 points, dished out 7 assists and grabbed 6 rebounds.
“It was the best experience of my life,” 19-year-old Sophie Birofsky said shortly after the victory, still in uniform and with the shining gold medal worn proudly around her neck. “I think I speak for all the girls when I say it was an amazing tournament,” the Brown University sophomore said.
Coached by Danny Schayes, who had 18 years of experience in the NBA, the older generation of US basketball players also delivered in their final match, beating Israel for the gold in the masters (over 35) category.
It was “great,” Schayes told the Times of Israel when asked about the 19th Maccabiah. “Being able to put together a team from scratch” enabled the US to play as one unit, he said.
The US and Argentina faced off in the soccer finals as well, and, once again the US players prevailed. Canada took the bronze, squeaking by Mexico 3-2.
The Americans also won the women’s open gold medal by defeating Israel 6-1. Once again the Canadians took the bronze.
Tennis singles gold matches were also held Monday. Israel’s Libby Mash won the women’s singles gold by defeating fellow Israeli Mayan Sela 6:4, 6:2, while Uruguayan Marcel Felder defeated Australian David Saufer for gold in the men’s.
Israel won the gold medal in the rugby men’s team 15s competition, defeating Australia 13-0.
In cricket, Israel’s team failed to perform in the finals the way it did Sunday, dropping the gold to the South African favorites after beating them the previous day to make it to the final game.
Despite the 166-99 loss, Israeli cricket fans can be comforted by the fact that the blue-and-white team made it this far. The best achievement Israel’s cricket team had in past tournaments was winning the bronze medal in 1981, 1997 and 2009.