Yosef Grundman got his groove back just in time for Valley Torah’s historic postseason run, leading the Wolfpack to a 58-50 win over Calvin Christian of Escondido in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 basketball tournament at Los Angeles Valley College on March 8.
“I was going through a slump during the season mentally, but I overcame it,” said Grundman, whose 19 points were more than double his season average.
After the Crusaders clawed away at the Wolfpack’s 10-point lead, converting three consecutive Valley Torah turnovers to get within three points halfway through the fourth quarter, Grundman took control.
He hit key free throws, only to see Calvin Christian’s Daniel Stout shed Valley Torah standout Aaron Liberman for a dunk that could have turned the momentum in the Crusaders’ favor. Grundman then drove the lane for back-to-back layups, including an impressive spinning reverse, to put Valley Torah (24-4) back up by nine at 52-43.
Liberman got redemption at the rim, slamming home an under-the-basket assist from his brother Nathaniel.
Calvin Christian resorted to fouling in the final minute, trying to make up its single-digit deficit, but Grundman sunk two free throws [A2]to end the scoring. He went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
“We knew that he was capable of playing at this level, but it just took some time,” Valley Torah coach Robert Icart said. “He’s becoming more consistent and he’s really grown up on the court.”
Aaron Liberman, fighting flu-like symptoms, finished with 15 points, and Nathaniel Liberman had 12 points and an impressive block of a Crusader desperation shot to end the third quarter.
Stout led all scorers with 23 points and Brock Lusky had 17 points to keep the Crusaders close. In fact the Wolfpack trailed by five points midway through the second quarter, and were down 25-24 at the half.
“I think sometimes we take it too easy on teams. Eventually we’re going to get to a team that we’re going to have to play hard all game, and if we don’t play our all, we’re going to lose,” Aaron Liberman said. “We have to realize that sooner rather than later.”
Natanel Tzion, whose intensity was evident throughout, fouled out with two minutes left trying to make a steal.
“We talk about discipline but we still picked up a lot of fouls,” Icart said. “We’re going pick up some because we’re going play aggressive. We’re not going to sit back, we’re going to go out and guard.”
Icart has arranged for a Holocaust survivor to speak to the team about perseverance before Thursday’s second-round game against 17-16 View Park Prep.
“We’re trying to broaden our horizons to try to get to a state championship,” Aaron Liberman said. “We’re going to do our best and see how far we can go. We just got to get in the right mindset.”