The Jaguars look on in anticipation of a possible game tying free throw

This Saturday afternoon, the Major Leopards, already league champions this Winter season of youth basketball at the Santa Monica YMCA, will take dead aim on the best the rest of their divisions have to offer when they play the league all stars in an effort to become the 4th team in the modern era (since 2011) to go through a season without a loss or tie AND beat the league all-stars (two other team did this and TIED the league all stars, and several others have tried but failed to win that last game).

They would take a special spot on the WALL OF CHAMPIONS in the basketball league office, but it is not a task for the fainthearted. Every player on the all-star team is to be reckoned with, and there are no weaknesses to be exploited when the subs come in.

The Bantam Stars and Minor League Hornets each won their league with a small blemish, but not one so big they cannot call themselves league champions, as well. The Rookie Splash, the first team to clinch a league title this season, suffered their first and only defeat in the final game of the post-season tournament to the Trojans, costing the Splash a chance at a perfect season.

This Sunday, all four divisions will gather, one at a time, to feast on pizza and recall the season in a moment of goodwill, and each player will be honored by their coach and many by the league director.

The Spring League tryouts have, by the time you read this, possibly been concluded, and new teams have been selected in preparation for first practices this next Monday and first games next weekend. Those teams will be announced no later than on banquet Sunday.

Here’s what happened in the penultimate weekend of Winter League play:



As mentioned above, the Leopards won the championship with a perfect record, but it

Max Lewis celebrates with Archer Aguilar after his free throw tied the Bantam League tournament championship game against the Stars.

wasn’t easy as the Fire gave them all they could handle on Sunday before losing in the tournament final by two, 37-35.

Both teams seemed a little tight in the opening four-minute segment, casting up poor shots and having poor success in hitting any of them in a very ragged piece of basketball.  

The Fire were playing some very stingy interior defense as they had to do, and it lead to the Leopards being forced to shoot from away from the basket. The Leopards started out cold and it was still very much a game at half time, as they led by only three at 13-10.

Early in the second half, Luke Khosla’s three pointer tied the game and told everyone that they weren’t going away. Khosla’s next three, with 1:06 to go in the third, put the Fire on top.

Trailing 22-19 entering the fourth quarter, Dash Wasson, one of the Leopard’s three big men and the one with the most offensive thrust in his overall game, went to work scoring the game’s next 8 points. Sebastian Ramirez dropped in another basket to make it a 10-0 run and a 29-22 lead for the Leopards and it looked, for a moment at least, that they had weathered the storm.

The Fire’s Quest Miller hit on back-to-back trips to cut the lead to 29-26 with 2:34 to play, and again, it was anybody’s game to win.

Keenan Bryant four Kayvon Abadi for a layup and it became a one-point game with 1:32 left. It was, however, the final point for the Fire in regulation time. Each team hit just enough free throws to keep it close, but give the Leopards the win, and a shot at perfection in another game.

Wasson scored 14 to go along with 13 rebounds. Matt Golubitsky grabbed a Baker’s Dozen boards, too, and Ramirez had 6 steals and 4 assists in a fine overall game for the Leopards.

Miller’s 9 led the Fire, followed by Khosla’s 8.

— On Saturday, the Leopards turned back the Warriors in the semi-final 38-28. Wasson scored 17; Golubitsky 10 with ten rebounds. Warriors big man Gaspar Antal was feeling poorly physically coming into the game, and while he did manage to score 7 with 11 rebounds, you could see something was amiss. Not to mention that he might have been uncomfortable with the Leopards three big prowling around where Antal is usually not strongly contested.

Other members of the championship squad coached by Adam Wasson are Luca Bainbridge, Kyle Habib, Jack Froom, Theone Green, Jaden Fishman and Nathan Petros.

— The Fire won their semi-final on Saturday by a similar 37-28 count over the Mavericks in a game that was never in serious doubt. Odin Williams led the winners with 9 and 9 rebounds. The Mavs got a 12/11 double-double from Josh Kaplan.

— In Sunday’s third place tilt, the Mavs bounced back to score a 40-24 win over the Warriors. Feeling a bit better, Antal managed 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, but he was cold from the floor and scored only 4 points. Connor Sullivan led the Warriors with 7. Aviel Haroonian played well to lead the Mavericks. His top assistants were Griffinn Pine and Kaplan. Timosha Moncher played well.

— The consolation saw the Tarheels play gallantly in trying to secure their first win, only to fade at the end in losing to the Bearcats, 60-48.

The Heels led 37-34 early in the fourth quarter, before being outscored the rest of the way 22-9 in a fourth quarter blitz led by Estevan Rodriguez, who hit 3 of his game-high 5 three point shots in that 8-minute span alone. He finished with the top Major League single game of the season, scoring 25. Dom Kajota added 8, and Lorezno Stabilini earned player of the game honors for his 5-point/11 rebound effort.

Bruno Picazo had three more three pointers in defeat and scored 16, and Tommy Sorady added 13 more points in the high-scoring affair.  


There was only one “winner-take-all” tournament final on Sunday and in it, the Hornets, who seemingly had trailed the Redhawks all season long in the standings by a pesky half a game, beat their nemesis when it mattered most, and took home the hardware, 23-19.

The Hornets struggled on offensive in the early going, but were very good on the defensive end, and those efforts kept the game tied at half time.

On the first two possessions of the third quarter, Abel Antal hit two outside shots to put the Hornets up 14-10, before Joey Little and Miles Aguilar tied it right back up before the sub break.

Eric Papazian stole a pass at half court and curled in for the layup to give the Hornets the lead back with 1:52 to play in the third quarter.

The Hornets were buzzing (!!) around the basket with no success for a time after that and well into the fourth quarter but still led by only two when Aayan Lakhani finally broke the ice with a BIG hole and an 18-14 spirit breaker right before the final sub horn.

Gorden McLean dropped one in off of a nice assist from Papazian right after that, and it was over and done with.

Other Hornets titlists include: Ryan Chambers, playing a double season as he also is on a Bantam League team, Jack Lofaro, Darien Jones and Amiel Doustan. The Hornets, who will play at Culver Middle School this Saturday against a team from Culver Palms YMCA, are coached by Mike Jones, Ethan Drogin and Jermey Herbst. Nice job, fellas!

— The Hornets won their semi-final on Saturday of course, topping the Jedi, 30-18.  Again, while the Hornets shooting went cold, their defense got hot, and they kept a 6-point lead intact until they could find the range. Papazian starred with 12 rebounds and 8 steals. McLean added 16 boards and 5 blocked shots, some of them quite loud. London Coleman led them all with 18 rebounds and 7 points for the Jedi.

— The Redhawks semi-final triumph was by a 30-21 count over the Zips. Funny how in tournament time, everyone roots for the underdog, and today that included the Hornets coaches and players who rooted openly for the Zips to win before they played their game.  Little led the winners with 12 points. Sherwin Shahrabi played well in both Redhawks games this weekend.

Shawn Sikder grabbed 14 rebounds, but could only manage 3 points despite making it to the basket with good moves most of the afternoon for the Zips.

— In the “B” tournament consolation game, the Rhinos handled the Orange Stars , avenging an earlier season defeat, 30-17. The Rhinos started super slowly: their first basket was a Keean Stoll (16 points) three pointer with a minute gone in the second quarter, but it managed to give them the lead 3-2!

When Jacob Escontrias banked in a long shot early in the fourth period, the writing was on the wall as the Rhino’s built their lead to 17-12 before coasting home. Natasha Kohli and Dash Hansford were best for the Stars.



All hail to the Stars, winners of the division title. They actually won it on Saturday by taking a tension filled overtime thriller of a semi final game from the Foxes 21-20.

That keeps with along standing tradition this season of the Stars winning, but usually not by much.  

The key basket of the game was scored with 4:39 to go in the second quarter.  Well other than the overtime winner of course. But without this one, there is no overtime. Elliot Mamedov got stuck on the left wing, pretty far out, and was trapped by two or three Foxes defenders. Not knowing what to do, He just threw the ball over his head towards the basket.

The ball has to land somewhere, and in this case it banked in for two points! Crazy shot.

Later… much later, Ryan Schuster broke a 10-10 tie with a 10 footer from the left side of the lane with 4:14 to go in the third quarter.

Almost a full quarter later, Schuster (8 points/11 rebounds) did it again with a bank shot to put the Stars up 14-10.

Rowan Booher (6/7) of the Foxes was fouled and made a basket to cut the lead to 2, and then he scored again on an inbounds play with 1:05 to go to tie the game.

Guy Sikora came close to untying it but his late three point shot went in and out and the game went to an extra three-minute period.

There, Sikora, completely covered up on the left wing, went under the outstretched arm of a Foxes defender and tossed in an off-balance shot with just 2 seconds to play to win the game, and the league championship.

— Sunday’s final was nearly as good, and might have been save for the fact that there are no overtime games in tournament games where one team does not have to advance. So the Stars and Jags were forced to enjoy a 7-7 tie.

Jace O’Brien finally broke a scoreless deadlock two minutes into the second quarter. It was 5-0 Stars at the intermission before Max Lewis brought the Jags back scoring all four points in the game in the third quarter.

O’Brien’s lip hanger finally fell in after a couple of seconds to put the Stars ahead 7-4, but Atobek Nasimov followed his own missed shot at the 3:04 make to make it 7-6. Lewis had three free throws post-game, hitting one to tie it and that’s the way in ended.

— The Jaguars qualified for the final by taking out the Scorpions 17-15 in Saturday’s final four game. Marko Zelenvovic hit a 14-foot straightaway bank shot with 5:36 to play in the third quarter to give the Scorpions a 10-8 lead, but Nasimov tied it back up on a pass from Lewis shortly thereafter.  

Ben Van Bilderbeek scored his only basket of the day (9 rebounds) after a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast drive. He stopped and pooped from about ten feet out to give the Scorps the lead back late in the third.

Lewis tied it back up late in the fourth with a layup after a series of near misses for the Jaguars, then had a three pointer go in and out with 3 seconds to play that would have won it then and there.

As it was, the Jags had five free throws chances to win the game. The first four missed, but Nasimov’s final effort won the game.

Asher Zaczepinksi had 5 steals in the loss and played well.  

— In the “B” tournament consolation game, the Dragons came up just short in a bid for their first win, falling to the Wolves, 19-15. Sean Saunders was player of the game with his best effort of the season in the win” 6 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals. Grey Broderick played well on both ends for the Wolves. Alex Ma led the Dragons.


Three Rookie League games opened things up on “Championship Sunday”, but it was the finale that left ‘em all talking.

In that big one, the Trojans played nearly flawless basketball in upsetting the league champion Splash, 22-13.  

It started out as a slow moving, deliberate game for both teams. Finally, with 1:10 to go in the opening period, Theo Richards got the Trojans rolling with a long of balance shot from the left wing.

The Trojans did a splendid job of limiting the Splash to just one shot–offensive rebounds were very scarce and that is often the way the Splash were able to build up leads in earlier games.

Noland Piippo hit a leftwing drive to up the advantage to 6-2 with 2:10 to go in the second, and the “upset alert” banner started to scroll across the bottom of the ESPN channel.

The next basket would be a big one as it would set the tone at halftime. A Splash basket would put them right back in it, a Trojans field goal could be a blowout.

Theo Richards of the Trojans answered the question with a 15 foot swish from the left wing and it was 8-2, Trojans at the half.

The Splash came out in the third quarter and looked a little worried and maybe a little tight. Theo Haberli was cold, and then resorted to taking long outside shots, which are hard to make in any division, especially in the Rookie League. Two of the other Splash “Big 4” were quiet at the same time, making it doubly hard to come back.

Haberli finally connected on a three making it 10-5 and giving the Splash hope. There were still 6 minutes to play after all. Two minutes further down the road, and Gavin O’Brien hit a bank shot brining his game-high total to 6 points and the score to 12-5. Piippo did the same and that sealed the upset win for the Trojans.

The star of the game might have been Jacopo Stabilini, who cleaned up virtually every missed Splash shot and had a total of 15 rebounds on the day for the Trojans.

The Splash were left to celebrate their league championship with ice cream and brownies. Not a bad way to end the season at all.

— The “A” tourney 3rd place game went to the Hoopstars, who held off the Bulls who played maybe their best game of the season without star forward Henry Brown, who was out sick, 13-11. Monika Diaz hit her first basket of the game after being held in check by the pesky Bulls defenders all day, and when it went in, it was the game winner with 1:22 to play.

Lucas Kim had a nice overall game for the Stars. Michael Mikhail was best for the Bulls with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 6 steals.

— In the “B” tournament final, the Meerkats topped the Dolphins 19-12. Owen Roberts kept shooting long shots and hitting them, and ended up with 6 points. Iwa Hashim had 4. Miles Franklin played well for the D’s.


This week brings us to the end of the Winter 2018 season.

There are four tournament games to round out the regular season schedule. Then at 3:10 we find the Rookie Vikings, Bantam Dragons and Major Tarheels all involved in games vs all star teams in an effort to win their first games of the season in their final outings. Those games will be followed by the grand finale at 6:40 between the league’s best players and the undefeated, untied major League champion Leopards. It should be a good one.

Sunday is awards banquet day. Trophies will be handed out to all, with championship trophies to the winners. All-League, All-Rookie, All-Newcomer and All-Transitional teams will be announced along with the Hal Uplinger Free throw awards, Most Valuable Players, Top Newcomer and Transitional players and Rookies of the season.










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

— 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! But please do NOT coach your child from the sidelines.  When you do it is likely they will be getting different instructions from their coach. Encourage them, but do not coach them.

— 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. If there’s an overtime, coaches get to pick whichever five they want on the floor no matter how long it lasts.

— Leave the referees alone. Period. Never, ever talk to them after games, other than to thank them, or tell them what a good job they did. That goes for coaches, too. And players.

— If you have any problems, please take them to your coach, and if you are not satisfied with your coaches reply, bring 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 timeout 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.

RULE UPDATED (2-18-18):  In the Rookie and Bantam league, beginning a few seasons ago, players making a three point shot could then be guarded by one defensive player at a time outside of the three point line. This rule, known as the “Dalton White” rule, has been amended to include the even the time said player does not have the ball, HOWEVER, the defender may also now steal any pass intended for that player outside the three-point line, the same as used to be the case inside the line. In no case may the defender go past the half court line, and since there is no back court violation, a pass to the offensive player behind the three-point line is safe and acceptable.

**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, 310-393-2721 x 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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