In the second episode of the famed TV series The West Wing, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman is pressed by his assistant for his picks for the week’s office sports pool. “Tell you what,” he quips after evading her initial queries, “can you give me Yeshiva University over the Dallas Cowboys?” The joke, of course, is that Yeshiva University is not exactly known as an athletic powerhouse.
On Sunday, however, the joke was on Josh Lyman, as the Yeshiva University men’s basketball team overcame an early 23-11 deficit to win their conference championship game by a score of 87-81 over the Purchase College Panthers. The victory capped a stunning underdog run that saw the #4 ranked Maccabees knock off the conference’s #1 seed in the semi-finals in a thrilling overtime win, en route to the team’s first ever berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Yeshiva joined the Skyline Conference in 1998. Before this year, their basketball team had never even played in the championship, let alone won it. Last year, they fell to Purchase College in the first round of the playoffs by the lopsided margin of 72-55. As one Yeshiva player put it in a post-game interview, “What better revenge than to come back and beat them on their home court for the championship?”
As the seconds on the game clock ticked down to zero, Y.U. fans in the Purchase court seats broke into the traditional Jewish song of “Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha.” (“When Adar comes”—that is, the current Jewish calendar month in which the festive holiday of Purim occurs—”we increase in happiness.”) It was most likely the first instance of Hebrew cheering in conference championship history.
Needless to say, we here at Tablet will be following every moment of this epic run like it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals.