NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - On Sunday afternoon, Yeshiva University—the all-Jewish college of 3,000 undergrads in Washington Heights that split its regular season match-ups against the College at Old Westbury—won its first Skyline Conference Championship and the program's first bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
"This is amazing," sophomore point guard Bar Alluf said. "We feel like celebs. Everybody's talking about us. Everybody."
Alluf tallied 16 points, five assists and four rebounds in the win.
"Whenever he scores an and-one," sophomore shooting guard, and Yeshiva's leading scorer, Simcha Halpert said of his teammate, "he points to the crowd: 'You get one, you get one, you get one. Everybody gets one!'"
Halpert dropped 25, earned tournament MVP honors and called the 87-81 win over Purchase College in the Skyline Conference Championship especially satisfying as the Panthers eliminated the Maccabees last season.
"Beyond our wildest dreams," Halpert said. "Like a storybook ending."
Team captain, senior forward Eli Mamann explained for those unfamiliar: A Maccabee was a Jewish warrior. Mamann said he embraced the team's new role as a national tourney 15-seed not only because it represented the first tournament appearance in the history of the program but also because, historically, the Maccabee always played the role of the underdog—and as the only Jewish college in the tournament, and thus the only team unable to play games between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday, these Maccabees stand out.
"Every time we take the court," Mamann said, "we wear our yarmulkes and we're really representing the Jewish people to our utmost ability."
"I've never seen anything like this," Yeshiva athletic director Joe Bednarsh said. "I've gotten emails, phone calls, text messages from literally all over the globe."
The Yeshiva AD for the last 27 years, Bendarsh promised a large contingent of Maccabee supporters at the team's first tournament game, Friday afternoon at York College in Pennsylvania.
"This guy loves it," Halpert said of Alluf's affection for the spotlight. "This guy eats it up."
"The buzz around campus is crazy," Mamann said.
"Friending us on Facebook, Instagram, following us, everything. You can't walk around," Alluf said, not un-enthusiastically.
"You guys aren't only representing Y-U," sophomore forward Gabriel Leifer said, reciting messages he'd received, "you're representing all the Jews."
But no pressure. The Maccabees expressed confidence, Tuesday, in their ability to play with anyone in the tournament and promised to enjoy their newfound fame regardless of Friday's result.
"Teachers, friends [are coming up to us]," Halpert said, "random people we haven't seen before."