The California Interscholastic Federation Division IV Girls Championship traditionally kicks off the second day of the state basketball championships.
The 2023 game was played on Friday morning instead to accommodate the Southern California champion Shalhevet Firehawks, who had an obligation to fly home before sundown, when Shabbat officially begins.
Shalhevet, an Orthodox Jewish high school of roughly 260 students in Los Angeles, made history on Friday morning as the first Jewish school to win a state basketball championship in California, defeating San Domenico 50-46.
“Playing at a Jewish school, you kind of represent the Jewish community as a whole,” said junior Arielle Grossman, who knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter. “It’s not only Shalhevet. There are many Jewish schools in the Los Angeles community, the West Coast, the East Coast. Right now we’re making history as a Jewish school.”
The Grossman-fueled 16-5 opening frame gave the Firehawks a lead they’d never relinquish, but they didn’t make things easy for themselves. Shalhevet (26-2) committed 24 turnovers to the Panthers’ 8 and shot just 14-of-28 at the free throw line.
The one strong performer at the charity stripe was junior guard Yalee Schwartz, who injured her ankle in the first quarter of last year’s loss to the Panthers in the Division V state title game. Schwartz went 11-for-16 on free throws and led all players with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“Last year, we were the first Jewish school to make it this far. This year, we’re the first Jewish school to win,” Grossman said. “It shows that we can make a huge impact. We represent our Jewish community as a whole. It’s something to be proud of as a Jew.”
San Domenico (27-8) trailed just 40-37 after a Lily Reeser 3-pointer with 6:52 left and got within two on a Summer Jenkins free throw, but Shalhevet answered with a 7-0 run and held on despite missing nine free throws in the final 100 seconds.
Grossman scored 11 of her 16 points in the first quarter and rounded out her double-double with 10 rebounds.
“There are middle school girls that come to our games and support our team,” head coach Ryan Coleman said. “They see what’s going on and what’s possible. It’s great for the community.”
Six-foot-one Polish senior Maja Cykowska had 14 points and 11 rebounds for San Domenico, while Jenkins scored a team-high 15 points and recorded six steals. The Panthers attempted 65 shots to Shalhevet’s 31 and scored 25 points off turnovers to the Firehawks’ six, but shot just 7-for-31 on 3-pointers.
The Firehawks and their small but passionate contingent of fans that made the trip to Sacramento will be celebrating their championship for months and talking about it years to come, but some of those festivities had to take place on the flight back to Los Angeles.
“We have to fly home for Shabbat,” Coleman said at the end of the team’s press conference before hurrying off the stage.
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