By Steve Stein, Contributing Writer
This has been a great season for the Frankel Jewish Academy boys basketball team, one of its best in years. But it won’t play in the Catholic League C-D tournament.
Not because the Jaguars didn’t qualify for the league tournament. They did. They were one of the top four teams in the seven-team Intersectional 2 Division. ‘
Coach Mike Marek’s team finished second in the division and beat every other team in the division including champion Riverview Gabriel Richard at least once.
FJA won’t compete in the league tournament because the tournament schedule conflicts with the observance of Shabbat.
Four first-round tournament games will be played Saturday, Feb. 9, starting at noon at Sacred Heart Academy in Bloomfield Township.
The tournament semifinals will be Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Birmingham Marian High School and the tournament championship game will be at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at the University of Detroit’s Calihan Hall, a change from previous years when the A-B and C-D tournament championship games were played on Sunday.
The Jaguars (10-6, 7-4) are disappointed they’ll be on the sidelines, especially because they have a good chance to finish the regular season 14-6 with a perfect 8-0 record at home.
FJA went 10-10 last season and was 4-16 the previous year, before Marek took over.
“This is frustrating for our team because we know we can do something in the league tournament,” said senior captain and point guard Noah Schlussel. “I understand this is the Catholic League and they don’t want to play on Sunday. But we’ll play on any day we can if they’d let us.”
Schlussel said he also understands that FJA opted out of playing in the boys basketball league tournament when the schedule was released last March.
Associate league members like FJA have had the option since 2016 of opting in or opting out of league tournaments in all sports based on their school and religious calendars.
FJA has participated in some league tournaments since the rules were changed.
The FJA boys basketball team last won a division championship in 2009. At that time, associate league members could not play in league tournaments.
Catholic League and FJA officials acknowledged the FJA boys basketball team’s disappointment, but said nothing can be done to help the Jaguars and the team’s five seniors this season.
“We’re a faith-based organization. We do everything we can to be accommodating to Frankel when we set our regular-season and tournament schedules,” said Catholic League director Vic Michaels. “Frankel is a good league member and we’re glad to have the school in the league.”
A spokeswoman from FJA who declined to be identified confirmed the West Bloomfield school receives dates for league tournaments the previous March and “if we know there is a conflict for any reason, including Shabbat and Jewish holidays, we opt out.
“It’s understandable that our boys basketball players are disappointed they can’t play in the league tournament, but we hope they feel proud of the hard work they’ve put in and the fact that they finished second in their division.”
Michaels said it isn’t logistically feasible to change a league tournament schedule after it has been set. The FJA spokeswoman was understanding.
“The Catholic League and the Archdiocese have a lot of factors to weigh in their league tournament schedules,” she said. “They have to book the venues, schedule officials and make sure the dates work with the schedules of the full league members. FJA has deep respect for the work of the Catholic League and we appreciate their partnership.”
The FJA spokeswoman agreed with Michaels that the school and league have a solid working relationship that hasn’t been compromised by the situation with the FJA boys basketball team.
“FJA appreciates being a part of a league with great teams and strong competition that gives Jewish students an opportunity to compete in stellar athletics,” she said.
The Jaguars had something to celebrate Jan. 29, not long after they got the news about the league tournament. They beat visiting division opponent Clarkston Everest Collegiate 37-34 on a banked-in three-pointer at the buzzer by Ethan Mostyn, who scored 15 points.
“That was the first time we’ve beaten Everest in my four years on the Frankel team,” Schlussel said.
Everest Collegiate beat FJA 53-42 on Dec. 20 in Clarkston.
The FJA boys basketball team roster includes seniors Ryan Otis, Jacob Klein, Jordan Salesin, Zack Seiferheld and Schlussel, juniors Will Bloomberg, Rafie Iframiov, Mitch Blackman and Mostyn, sophomores Jeremey Jenkins and Brandon Gladstone and freshman Caleb Kleinfeldt.
Angelo Lanava is the team’s assistant coach.
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This video by Katie Schaffner shows FJA basketball player Ethan Mostyn hitting a game-winning shot vs. Clarkson Everest Collegiate on Jan. 29 at FJA.