The Hoop: The Official Newsletter of Santa Monica YMCA Youth Basketball, Volume 21, Issue 13






The Minor League champion Thunder.

There was a lot going on in the final two weeks of Fall League youth basketball at the Santa Monica YMCA. The final three (of four) divisional championships have been spoken for and those teams, along with all others will be honored this Sunday at the seasonal awards banquets.

At the same time, this week marked the official opening of the Winter league, as players new to the league or who have not played since last Spring or further back in time have been evaluated by coaches, with the teams being selected this Friday night and Saturday morning, before opening practice next week in anticipation of games beginning in mid-January, 2018.

The Minor Bulls and Clippers watch the game’s final shot that could have tied the score, as it falls off at the buzzer.

The season all-star contests for all four divisions are a perfect way to begin the celebration weekend on Saturday, with all players invited to play in one final game this season. Then Sunday, you’ll find out which players will take home honors as Most Valuable Players, Rookies of the Season, Top Transitional and Newcomers of the Season, along with the all-league, all-rookie, all-newcomer and all-transitional teams being announced.

Registration for winter league has long ago been stopped, as we reached capacity for the season around December 1, and now have a waiting list of over 50 hopeful players trying to gain a spot if there is one to be had.

If you missed the boat, be sure to register for Spring league, which begins in March. Registration for that will open on February 1, 2018.


We opened play on the final weekend of regular season action with the final five Bantam League games in a divisional in which there were ten teams, meaning every team played every other once.

Two teams, the Lakers and Bulls both ended up with identical 8-1 records, with the Lakers taking the crown by virtue of their having defeated the Bulls in their head to head meeting earlier in the season.

Connor Sullivan prepares to shoot a crucial free throw.

The Bulls won their game to begin play last weekend 19-17 over the Clippers, this putting pressure on the Lakers to do the same later in the day. They did it by blowing open a 4-4 half time deadlock with a 10-4 run in the third period. With Leo Mooney of the floor for a break for the first time in the game to open the second half for the Clippers, Leo (10) and Guy (5) Sikora took turns rippling the cords of the net during that stretch of time. Leo had a game-high 14 rebounds for the winners as did player of the game Ari Candela.

Mooney had a nice all around game as usual, and Kalen Anderson led the Clips with 6 points and 8 rebounds.

The Clippers had the final shot of the game from 5 feet away in the middle of the lane, but it was too hard, and they came up just short.

— And so two hours later, the Lakers faced a determined group of Warriors, who lived up to their nicknames to be sure!


Sometimes scrambling and playing hard against a quality opponent can even things up on the court for a team that does not have as glossy a record. And the Warriors hustled all over the floor against a somewhat flat Lakers bunch. As such, Alex Brick’s three pointer at the half time buzzer gave the Warriors a 13-10 lead.

The Orange Crush mob Sullivan after he wins the game.

To open the third, Eric Papazian fed Russell Ma with an assist to cut the lead to one, but Brick quickly put his team back up by three with a shot from the left wing at the 5:20 mark.

Again Ma dropped one in off another pass from Papazian with 2:20 to go in the third. Zayd Al-Shawe stole a bad pass a drove the length of the court for an easy layup to make it 17-14 with a minute to play, but just before the quarter ended, Papazian found Ma with a long overhead pass to make it a one point game heading into the fourth.

Ma’s steal and layup gave the Lakers their first lead of the game two minutes into the final frame but Zoe Debenning, who worked tirelessly on the boards all afternoon for the Warriors (17 rebounds, a career high), followed a missed shot with a bank layin to put her team, the Warriors back in front heading into the sub break.

The Lakers were in trouble, and the Warriors were not going to go away.

The play of the game might just have been this: Youssef Chabbouh of the Lakers was trapped in the key by three Warrior defenders, and not knowing what else to do, just flung the ball towards the basket in desperation. Of all things, it went in!

That seemed to energize the Lakers, particularly Papazian, who had seemed to be coasting through this one a bit to this point. All of a sudden, they, and he, awoke, and took over the game from that point forward, pulling way to a 27-20 regulation time lead.

The Rookies shake hands after beating their parents on Sunday.

But there were free throws aplenty to be had, particularly for the team trailing. Good thing for the Lakers that Ma hit two of this three, or they would have lost not only the game but the championship.

Zoe made all four of her charity tosses, Al-Shawe both of his, and Brick 3 of 4 as the Lakers held on to win by a single point.

Ma, Papazian, Al-Shawe and Brick all finished with ten points.  And the Lakers finished as kings of the division… barely.

Other members of the championship team coached by Michael Ma are Alex Ma, Munther Elsayed, Theo Haberli, Ben Steelman, Alex Brara and Bryson Brown.

— The game in between these two was another thriller, that came down to a final missed shot that could have won the game, and a boat load of free throws that were all missed, any one of which would have broken a 20-20 tie between the Giants and Thunder.

It looked like the Thunder had this one in hand but a fourth quarter basket from Koosha Paridepour, and three of them from London Coleman, the divisional player of the week for her 12-point/20-rebound performance turned the game around.

Paridepour hit a follow shot inside to get his team to within two with a minute to play, then after a steal, the Giants called timeout, got the ball to Coleman who tied it with about ten seconds left in the game.

Matt Scholze scored a dozen for the Thunder.  

— The final two games of the season could not quite match the excitement of the previous three, but were far from being blowouts.

The Megaladons kept the Wildcats out of the win column, with a 22-17 victory. Justin Tun was the Megs’ main man with 6 points and terrific defense throughout. Jon Shu was busy with 4 and 9 rebounds. Grey Broderick was best for the Cats, who will, this Saturday afternoon, be the only team in any of the four divisions to be invited to play a tenth game.

— The Beasts rallied with a 6-0 fourth quarter to overcome to the Panthers 16-13 in the finale.  Eliot Mamedov, Darien Jones and Aayan Lakhani, who was all over the court all day to earn P.O.G. honors, each scored in the decisive period.  Gorden McLean led the Panthers with 6 and 11 rebounds, the same number of boards as those from Rich Cortez.


The Vipers outlasted the Lakers in the Major League tournament final, and thus copped the crown on the season’s last day in the season’s last game. This, of course, in their third meeting of nine overall games this season, the first two of which were taken by the Lakers. It IS really hard to beat a team three times in the same season.

Yowhannes Mihret sprang to extra life in scoring a big 11 points to go with Zion Qurtman’s 12 and 10 rebound double double in the win. The Vipers did a very nice job on letting Nasir Luna do his thing but shutting down everyone else on the Lakers’ high-powered offense. Luna wrapped up the season scoring 27 in another standout performance.

The champs are coached by Mathias James, and include Luca Marchis, Sherwin Shahrabi, Quest Miller, Cy Backen, Charlie Downey, Gian Luca Tosonotti, Ervin Broughton and Matt Golubitsky.

— The other two games ended in a tie, lending credence to the theory that there’s not much separating third from fourth, or 5th from 6th places.

The Ballerz and Mambas fought to a 39-all draw first. Estevan Rodriguez had a career high 18 for the B’s and Josh Kaplan added 9. Nifty Tewodros and Evan Daghighian scored 14 between them for the M’s and Dash Wasson added 6.  

— In the third place tournament game, the Blaze and Streetdogs finished up at 43’s.  Dash Decker had a fine 24-point outing to lead the Dogs, who were without Timosha Moncher, who was out winning a national judo championship on the day. Well done, kid!

Keegan Fleigner scored 14 with 17 boards and Sam Rubin tossed in 9 for the Blaze.


On Sunday, it was all for the Minors as we put a lid on the regular season with four final games.

— In the opener, the consolation game of the “B” tourney, the Rebels had no problems with the Hurricanes, building a large halftime lead of ten before being threatened briefly by a nice Canes comeback in the third quarter, but pulled away steadily in the fourth for the win.

Harrison McGuire had a career high 18 point game, much of the damage coming in the key final frame. Amire Jahromi had 14 rebounds for the victors and Joey Little scored 9 points.

Abel Antal led the third quarter comeback bid for the Canes scoring 8 of his 12 in that period alone.

— In the “B” tournament final, the Ducks pounded a four-person Demons squad 30-12.  Top their credit, the Demons only trailed by 6 after three periods despite all four players playing every single second of the game.

Alejandro Poza and Dom Kajota led the winners.

— The Minor “A” tournament produced a classic and a champion. Going in there were three teams with a chance to win it. When it ended, the one that was in front stayed right where they belonged.


The Orange Crush knew what they had to do, but weren’t sure how to get it done. They needed to win in the third place game and hope for the Reign to take the championship game that followed. Their opponent could only play spoiler.

And spoil things they did for a good long while on Sunday afternoon. The Crush were not playing particularly well, and the Flash took advantage of that, building up a 14-9 lead after three quarters, one that looked for all the world like it was going to hold up.

Conner Sullivan of the Orange Crush, and his mates had other ideas. His steal at half court of a lazy cross court pass on the first Flash possession of the final quarter led to a layup and the lead was down to three.

Forty seconds late he made an ugly right hand layup from the left hand side to trim it down even further to one point. All the momentum was wearing Orange.

But Christopher Rhee quieted the crowd with his fourth of five baskets on the day, giving the Flash a little breathing room with 6:30 left… a long time to go.

Grabbing a nice pass from Cecilia Casas in the middle of the lane, Natasha Kohli headed from the center of the key down the right side and threw in a bank shot as she was fouled, bringing the Crush players and coaches out their seats, and the lead back down to a single tally.

Again, Rhee was the man on the spot and heading into the sub break, he put the Flash back out by three.

Sophie Roth scored on a breakaway layup finishing a good fast break transition for the Crush with 3:30 to go.

The game went back and forth for the next few minutes, until Roth, with under a minute to play, drove the right baseline and tossed in a 5 foot floater from there on her way in to put the Crush on top for the first time since it was 2-0 way back in the opening minute.

The Flash weren’t done through, as Noah Kratz put in a follow shot to give the Flash a 20-19 lead at the final horn. It would come down, as it so often does, to shooting foul shots saved up through the second half.

The Flash had two, and with them could ice the game. No such luck.

The Crush needed two to win, and two to stay alive.

Kohli calmly tossed her “and one” in to tie the game, leaving it up to Sullivan who had been fouled late n the game on a common foul that pout the Flash over the limit and the Crush into the bonus. His one-and-one would make the season or break it.

It was 20-20.

And then the Crush had won it.

Sullivan’s 12th point brought his teammates out onto the floor in a mob scene seen only rarely at the Y, saved for moments as special as this one.  

— About an hour later of course, the Thunder, knowing they must win to claim the outright crown, rendered Sullivan’s heroics moot (save for a cool memory for everyone who was there), as they were on fire throughout a 35-20 blasting of the Reign to win the Minor League championship with ease.

Noah Houriani was the main trouble-maker for the Thunder, scoring 12 and running the team fairly well on both ends. Max Langer dropped in 7 points. Other important contributions in this one were made by Hallie Bujake, Arjun McIntosh, and Jaden Fishman. Other members of Jeremy Langer’s squad include Coral Izen, Linnea Harris, Emi Slesaransky, and Alex Wray plus non-playing member Toby Gestetner. Jon Wray assisted.

Yowhannes Dagnew pulled down an impressive 18 rebounds for the Reign, who did a very good job just to make the final, after almost being eliminated from contention not long into the season before stringing a number of wins together in their comeback.


The rest of Sunday was dedicated to some very fun games between players and parents/elders.

The kids won three of the four, as seems to be the norm just about every season.

Dominic Drew (Rookies), Rowan Booher (Bantams) and Roderick Johnson (Minors) took home honors as MVP’s of their winning sides.

The Majors played the elders tough, and actually led with 3o seconds to play in the third quarter before being wiped out in the fourth, and dropping a 72-61 result, the closest Majors vs Elders game in modern history. It’s still a loss.


This week marks the end of the season, with the playing of the all star games. Due to the gym being used on Saturday morning for the “Winter Wonderland” from 9 a.m.-noon, we will be utilizing both sides of the gym for the first thee hours or so, so be sure you know when and where your game is being played. EVERYONE is included in an all star game.

The Bantam Wildcats have actually earned a tenth game on Saturday in an effort to get in the victory column on the last day, so let’s root them on!

The final game at 6:50 p.m. features the top 20 players we have in our program, and is always a high quality game.

Then, on Sunday, the pizza party/awards banquets roll one after the other beginning at 11 a.m. through the 8 p.m. closing.  Come one, come all to celebrate our season.

The Winter league player evaluations and team selections will have happened between this writing and the playing of said games and giving away of said pizza and awards, and those of you who are playing with us in the Winter season will know about your new teams as soon as Friday night or as late as Sunday night.

Practices begin as early as next Monday, with first games on January 14, 2018.









— There is an information table with hard copies of this newsletter THE HOOP each week, along with other important information.

— Be sure to turn in your emergency packets. All new players have been given these at evaluations and parent’s night, but there are new forms if you lost yours located in my office or on the information table on game days. Believe it or not there are still four players who have yet to turn them in, and they are now ineligible to play in further games until they do so.

— Please yell encouragement and whisper criticism. Cheer for your team, and it’s actually okay to cheer for good plays by the other team, too!

— The playing time rules are simple. Your child MUST play at least half the game, unless they become injured or leave, or choose not to play. Players CAN play more, but that’s up to the coach. No one else. Especially not parents.

— Leave the referees alone.  Period.

— If you have any problems, please take them to your coach, and if you are not satisfied with your coaches reply, being the issue to me.


— When your game is over, please help clean up the area where you sat and also the area where your team sat to make it ready for the next game. If yours is the final game, please help clean the gym and put away chairs and benches at the director’s request.


— Rookie ball is a youth ball (27.5) and they play on an 8-foot basket. There is no defense allowed outside the three-point line. If a team leads by 15 they must drop back into the key defensively and this may happen earlier at the director’s discretion. Two timeouts per game, one each half.

— Bantam league ball is intermediate (28.5) with baskets at 9 feet. Still no defense outside the three-point line. If a player hits a three-point shot, that player may be guarded (one on one only) for the remainder of the game outside the line. Three timeouts per game, no more than two in either half.

— Minor league plays defense out to half court, so if the lead goes to 15 they drop back to 3 point line, and if it grows to 20, they go into the key. Basket is at ten feet. Four timeouts per game, no more than two in either half.

— Major league is full court ball with a regulation size ball. When the lead goes to 15 the team ahead must not play defense past half court. Twenty is a drop back to the three point line, 25 into the key. Four timeouts per game, no more than three in a half.

In all divisions, teams may come back out to play regular defense when the score goes back under the total that put them in there in the first place.

In all divisions, we play four, eight minute running time quarters. At the four minute mark, providing the offensive team at that moment is not directly threatening to score inside the three point line, the horn is sounded and the teams take a 20-second timeout to clear the bench of all substitutes. Teams must clear the bench again after each quarter ends. If, during a four minute segment in which a player is on the bench and they are called into the game to substitute for an injured player or one who cannot play further, the player going in may not be among those coming back to the bench at the next regular sub break.

— In all divisions, any shooting foul shots will be shot at half time and after the game. These count towards the final score of the game. It will then be presumed that the team that was fouled made their shots and it is the other team’s ball out of bounds, thus saving valuable seconds from clicking off of the clock. We’ll shoot them later.

At the end of the game (half time in Major League games) players who have yet to score a single point will take part in a season long free throw shooting contest, shooting as many as six free-throws (until they make one—or we give them the 6th one for free). These points do NOT count towards the final score unless they do not change the winner of the game. Then they do count.

**If your child is injured, please resist the urge to rush onto the court to take care of them (unless it’s obvious that it is serious). Ninety-five percent of the time, if you give them 30-60 seconds, they are just fine, and continue in the game. Sometimes they have to go to the bench for a brief bit to recuperate. Let them work it out themselves as much as you can. The refs will handle it first, then the coaches, then you and me.

— If you or a member of your viewing party are not members of the Santa Monica Y, please be friendly with our front desk staff and sign the guest book each visit. It’s at the end of the counter. Children accompanying you may NOT roam freely through the YMCA, they must remain in the gym with you, and not go anywhere else. Thanks.

— We communicate generally through email. Mine is, 310-393-2721x 137

My assistant, Barry will be on hand many days while I may not be. He can answer your questions, and if not, you should ask me via email or phone call if I’m not there.

— Check this newsletter every single week for important information. Feel free to forward this to anyone you’d like.

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