Zak is mobbed by his happy Rockets teammates.

Sporting perfect records to date, the Rookie Splash, who have already clinched the outright division championship before playing in this weekend’s tournament final, and the Major Leopards who can take the crown with a semi final win this Saturday evening, both have their sights set further down the road–towards playing the league all-stars in a post season challenge game to try and become the 4th and 5th teams in the modern ear (post-summer 2011) to pull off the trick of going 10-0 in a single season.

Next Sponsor

The Bantam Stars can also win their league with a semi final tournament victory Saturday afternoon.

The Minors appear to be heading towards a face-to-face showdown of top teams for all the marbles this “Championship Sunday” as the Winter 2018 youth basketball season at the Santa Monica YMCA comes briskly towards closing time.

At the same time, with sign-ups for the upcoming Spring league hitting over 280, the League Director has closed open registration and announced that all late-comers will be added to the waiting list, from which will be chosen enough players to fill out the various divisions, without concern for which persons signed up at what time for that list.  

New player evaluations, for those not playing in this current league, begin next Monday and run through next Wednesday, at which time the teams will be selected and announced. Practices for the new season will begin on the 19th of March with all teams participating in scrimmages on Saturday, March 24, and opening day for 16 of the expected 30 teams the following day.  

Oddly, due to the Spring Break in local schools, the other 14 teams will not play their first game until Saturday, April 7. The league will then continue through the end of the school year in mid-June, breaking only for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Last weekend’s action set up a big finish for the winter leaguers over the next two, and final weekends.

Joseph Zak of the Rockets swishes in the sudden death game winning free throw.


We lead with the Rookies this time, as they sport the only league champ. Barring a forfeit loss or a game in which they lose and throw away points due to unsportsmanlike conduct—both of which are quite on the unlikely side—the Splash have shown themselves to be very worthy champions. Not that they weren’t even challenged… and that was the case this past game, won they won by breaking a tie game open in the final quarter.

They won the “A” tournament semi final over the Bulls, but only by a slim 17-14 margin. Theo Haberli scored all the points in that final quarter to break an 8-8 tie, as he went on to tally 10 of his team’s 12 points, not an uncommon occurrence for him this season. Haberli was in the Bantam League in the fall, struggled to the point that he was sent down to work on his game. Work on it he has.

Jarvis Wakefield and Vaughn Elliott were busy, statistically, and Harlan Mansfield scored the other basket. Other members of the title winners are Alex Brara, Dashiell Rupp, Elsa Peterson, Scarlett Harris and Noah Levy. Rami Thierry played with the team early in the season. The team is the first ever championship team to be coached by a Parent/Child combination, with Wendy and Xailoh Hermosillo teaming up to lead the Splash. Hermosillo is a player in the Major League currently, and also interns as a referee in the Bantam League.

The Bulls hung in there pretty well. Not a lot of teams have been able to do even that with the Splash. Sadie Stiehm scored 4, with Georgia Rolph and Henry Brown adding two each. Michael Mikhail grabbed 6 steals.

— On Saturday, the Rookie “B” tournament semi finals played through. First up, the 5th place Meerkats knocked down the 8th place Vikings, 23-12. Cam Pariser sunk the Vikes with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 7 steals in a very nice effort. Owen Roberts added 5 and Iwa Hashim played well.

The Vikings hung around for the better part of three quarters, trailing only 10-7 with 8 minutes to play before fading. Jenson Montague led the Vikes with 5 and Mile Boelke scored 2 with 7 rebounds.

— In the other half of that bracket, the Dolphins edged the Hawks in the 6th place vs 7th place game, 4-2.

Alexa Zelenovic and Miles Franklin scored the only two baskets for the winners. The Hawks two regulation time points came on Elliot Ma free throws. This reporter did not attend (I had the day off and went to the Beverly Hills Kennel Club dog show at the Pomona fair grounds before watching some lousy college basketball game that night), but it is hoped that with the score being what it was, that the defense must have been terrific.

— On Sunday, the two losing teams met in the Consolation game, the final game of the season for the winning Hawks, who tripped up the Vikings 20-17. Elliot Ma scored a career high (by a lot) 10 points to go with 11 points in his first career double-double. Every time it looked like the Vikings might have a chance, Ma dropped in a clutch basket from close range to keep them at least arm’s length away.

Misha Lakhani scored 8 in a good effort for the Vikings, and Montague added 3 but it wasn’t quite enough.

For their troubles (they went 0-9 in the regular season), the Vikings get to play a team of league all stars on March 17 to try and score victory #1 on the season. Go Vikes!

— Sunday’s other game was a very well contested and exciting “A” tournament semi final, to find out who would try their luck in the tournament championship game and try to stop the Splash’s perfect dreams.

In it, the Trojans posted a mild upset of the Hoopstars 16-14.

Zips action in their win at Culver Middle School last Saturday.

The Men and Women of Troy led 8-0 after the first quarter led by the first career baskets for Ethan Chang and Noah Hagooli-Bolanos (in his third season). The Hoopstars were without top third threat Lucas Kim until late in the first half, making it difficult for Monika Diaz and Felix Idell to get loose for good quality shots against the Trojans tough perimeter defense.

When Hagooli-Bolanos hit again one felt it just might be a Trojan morning, as it become 12-2 with 5:46 to go in the third quarter.

Finally the Hoopstars awakened as you knew they would and as good teams tend to do when threatened. Idell hit a couple of baskets to close the gap to 12-8 by the end of the third quarter.

But Jacopo Stabilini picked a good time for his only basket of the game with 6:56 to go in the game to give the Trojans some breathing space and a 14-8 lead.

A minute later, Hagooli-Bolanos made his first ever scoring day a three-basket affair (I want what he had for breakfast!) and it seemed pretty much over at 16-8 with time running out.

The Hoopstars weren’t quite done yet, as Ryan Cohen hit a left wing bank shot before the sub break and Diaz dropped one in from the left baseline to trim the lead to 16-12. They would only score two free throws in the post-game and came up two points short in regulation time.

Idell finished with 7 for the Hoopstars.


Well, when I wrote the sentence you see above on MONDAY NIGHT, I then started to feel lousy. Now it’s late Thursday, and I actually weight ten pounds less after a bout with the stomach flu. Yay!

So here we go.

On Saturday evening, the big boys got to play their tournament quarterfinals, with the Fire and unbeaten Leopards getting the byes into the semis.

There were no surprises in these two, as the Mavericks, seeded 3rd, polished off the #6 Tarheels 55-39, and the 4th place Warriors held on to beat the #5 Bearcats, 43-33.

In the first of the two, three Mavs, Xailoh Hermosillo, Josh Kaplan and Michael Hanasab all scored ten points (with Cy Backen missing that status by one). Kaplan got the twin-double with 11 rebounds, one more than Aviel Haroonian. Timosha Moncher and Keaton Templeman played able-bodied supporting roles. The game was over early at 14-4 through one quarter and just got more lopsided as it went along.

Moxie points for hanging in there for the Heels Tommy Sorady (13) and Evan Daghighian (11).

— Game two, was actually a contest after three quarters, with the Warriors up only 23-22 before busting out to a 16-6 fourth quarter runaway-and-hide situation.

The heavy lifting was done, as usual, by Gaspar Antal, who sizzled off another double-double of 11 points and 17 rebounds (plus four blocked shots). Orlando Sandoval had his best scoring game in quite some time knocking in ten. Milyon Mitchell and Connor Sullivan split up 14 between them.

Estevan Rodriguez was the highlight man for the Cats with 18.

— On Sunday, the league leaders got to battle the two losing teams from the night before.

As expected, the Leopards trounced the Tarheels, who did manage to make it a better game than perhaps expected, before falling 49-37. Dash Wasson scored 12, but it was the steady inside play of Matt Golubistky that won top honors for the night with 8 points and 17 rebounds. Jack Simon grabbed another 11 boards in the Leopards 55-31 domination on the glass.

Bruno Picazo was on fire for the Heels, hitting 4 of his 5 three point shots en route to a nice 14-point game. Sorady and Daghighian complemented that with 15 points split up, and Ari Potamianos had 12 rebounds.

The second game of the set, and the finale of the weekend, did not go as planned.


The idea is that the top two teams will be rested AND playing a much weaker opponent in preparation for the anticipated league finale a week later.

Someone forgot to tell the Bearcats how the script works.

They built up a big early lead, but it was erased early in the second quarter on Quest Miller’s up and under that untied it and gave the Fire their first lead on the first possession of the second quarter.

But Dom Kajota nailed a three pointer to put the Bearcats right back in front a minute into the period, and Ian Villanueva scored his only basket of the game out a timeout to make it 18-13 for the Cats with 4:26 to go in the half.

An Estevan Rodriguez layup made it 20-13 and eyebrows were started to arch.

Finally, Miller stopped the bleeding with a bucket inside, and following the sub break, Keenan Bryant tossed in a three to bring the Fire to back to within two at 20-18.  

The Bearcats were playing about as well as they could it seemed, and still trailed: not a good omen for their fans at that moment.

Third quarter: Rodriguez hits a three to put the Cats back up a by a point, then grabbed a rebound and went the distance to lay it in for a three point cushion.  

Moments later, Fire fans came out of their seats when Luke Khosla hit a three (he is 3-4 this season!) to tie it back up with 5:17 to go in the third. The Fire built on that and lead by three after three, and when Shiva McIntosh hit on the first possession of the fourth quarter, it upped the Fire advantage to 34-28.

Surely, now it was over.

It wasn’t.

And don’t call me Shirley.

Rodriguez with a layup, 34-30. Rodriguez with a three, 34-31 with 6:13 left.

McIntosh puts the Fire back up three with 5:51 to go. Kajota finds a loose ball and puts the garbage back in at 4:34 it’s 36-35 Fire.

Rodriguez: left hand layup from the left side gives the Cats the lead. A Fire player, instead of waiting for the sub break to come, fires up a hurried three point shot giving the ball to the Bearcats. Rodriguez hits a bomb from the left wing for a 40-36 lead. Gian Luca Tosonotti (7 points/12 rebounds) finishes the scoring off at 40-38, leaving only some post-game free throws that can’t change anything.

Score 20 for the Samo Y player of the week, Rodriguez. Score a big win, not surprising to the players, fans and coaches of this late season improving team.


The Minors actually had to finish their regular season on Saturday morning before they could take part in the fun of March Madness.

— The Redhawks sewed up the top seed, as playing without star guard Clark Elliott they were still able to hold off the Jedi, who played the entire game with only five players, 20-18 in regulation time.

The Jedi made a great 8-2 run in the fourth quarter to make it a game, but fell just short. Asser Tewodros led them with 12 and London Coleman had 11 rebounds.

Joey Little and Arjun McItosh were best for the Hawks.

— Second seed went to the Hornets, who took care of business against the Thunder, 27-19.  Gorden McLean had 8 points and Eric Papazian played well throughout. Dalton White led the Thunder with 10.

— The Rush beat the Rhinos in a battle of also-rans this season, 29-25. Sasha Yansen scored ten for the winners, and Amir Jahromi had 20 rebounds in the loss.

— Having settled that, the “B” portion of the league played their tournament semi finals on Sunday afternoon.

The 5th place Rush KO’d the 8th seed Orange Stars 31-21. Emi Slesaransky scored ten, and then he got what I got. Jacob Burrows added 8.

Natasha Kohli had 8 with 11 boards for the Stars.

— The Thunder came from behind with a 9-2 fourth quarter rally to trip up the Rhinos in the 6th vs 7th game, 31-27. Adi Petros hit an important three pointer in the decisive period and finished the game with 9 points. Jahrid Longsworth scored 8 and had 11 rebounds, three shy of leader Alex Brick. White finished his good week with 8 more points and 6 steals.  

Keean Stoll was good all weekend–he’s been good all season let’s be clear—scoring a 10/10 double-double with 7 steals. Jahromi is big inside, scoring 8 with 18 rebounds (that’s 38 of those in two days, more than some teams!)


There were just two games in this division to report on this week, both lower bracket tournament semi finals. Not that they weren’t without their merits.

— The first not nearly as entertaining as the second, as the Typhoon rolled over the Dragons 36-18. Parker Cappiccille hit for a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Mohamad Jahromi and Max Baracy assisted well with 16 points and 22 rebounds accounted between them. 


Well, honestly it wasn’t the best-played game, but it was the most exciting finish. As seasoned observers are keenly aware, the national Association of YMCA’s does not allow for overtime games unless it is in tournament (or for some reason, all star games!) play, where one team must advance forward in the tournament. Such is the case from time to time here, and was the case when the Rockets met the Wolves in what, on the surface is your garden variety 6th place vs 7th place game.

But, as good sports fan will oft note: “when two alike teams get together, no matter the day, it can make for a good spectating”.

It was 8-2 Rockets after one quarter, then 8-6 fully a minute into the second as the Wolves struck quickly for back to back baskets from Sean Saunders and Ethan Shahar.

It stayed that way for the next 14 minutes of playing time until Benny Arroyo of the Wolves tied it up with 33 seconds to play in the third with his only basket of the game.

Luca Ghermezian dribbled down court and found Ryan Chambers (who led all scores in this game with 6) open in the corner and he got the Rockets back on top 10-8, before the Wolves Finn Raih tied it up with a bank shot from the right wing with 1:14 to go.

The Rockets had four post-game free throws that would have won it, but none were particularly close, so on to overtime we went. There were chances aplenty as both teams fired towards the hoop at every opportunity. Nothing going in, the three minutes expired bringing us to sudden death overtime, wherein the first team to score a point would win the game.

Now every shot held the game winner with it as it headed toward the hoop. The crowd would ooh-and aah and groan every time a shot went up and came close. This sudden death period went on long enough to prompt each team to need to replace a player who had run out of gas.

Finally, a foul. And Joseph Zak of the Rockets, who led his team with ten rebounds and 4 steals, stepped to the line for a one-and-one. The illustrations on today’s issue of the HOOP seal the moment in time as he was mobbed by his mates shortly after hitting the game winner.


Ok, it’s championship weekend, so here’s what it looks like:  

Saturday, if the Bantam Stars win their game at 11:40 over the Foxes, they will take the league championship regardless of Sunday’s tournament final. If not, we’ll see what happens.

The Best chance for a real live showdown one game for the title comes in the Minor League. If the Redhawks and Hornets win their games on Saturday at 310 and 420, they’ll play for the title, with the Redhawks needing only a tie in the Sunday tourney final to win the league.

If the Major Leopards win their semi final Saturday at 5:30, they are champs no matter what happens Sunday. Of course they’d like the perfect 9-0 season, so that would still be in play.

That perfect season will also be in the balance for the Rookie Champion Splash if they can beat the Trojans in the tourney final Sunday at 12:50.

Other finals Sunday are at 2:00 pm (Bantam), 3:10 (Minors) and 6:40 (Majors).

Good (and free) seats still available










— 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 [email protected], 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.