BROOKLINE — Yoni Klausner broke the 1,000-point barrier early in his senior season at the Maimonides School, despite facing box-and-one defenses designed to stop the 6-foot-1 forward from Sharon.
Klausner averages more than 27 points per game against MIAA foes and can shoot from long range, drive to the basket, and finish with either hand.
But he is probably not going to play college basketball.
Even though his coach is certain he could get offers, Klausner will not consider most of them because nearly every team plays on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.
An Orthodox Jew, Klausner has already made sacrifices for his faith. He never seriously considered leaving Maimonides, a religious school he has attended since sixth grade, for a basketball program that plays at a higher level; and he kept himself out of Amateur Athletic Union play in the offseason to respect the Jewish day of rest each Saturday. Still, he finds time for a game he loves.
“He’s not going to give up the Jewish Sabbath to play college basketball — he has his convictions,” Maimonides coach Ed Gelb said. “But he also has a passion for the game of basketball and he’s been really successful.”
Klausner did not play in his first game freshman year, but hit five 3-pointers the first time he got on the floor and slowly accrued playing time from there. He was just a shooter back then, he said, but developed his game in the offseason to the point where he feels his greatest strength now is scoring off the dribble.
Over the years, he has amassed a pile of accolades. He has been the team’s most improved player and its most valuable one. He earned first-team All-Star honors for a tournament in Baltimore and was named to the national second team put together by Jewish Hoops America.
In a 72-61 win over Fenway Jan. 8, the only people who could stop Klausner were his coaches, who benched him after the senior scored his 38th point of the game early in the second half. He was just seven points away from his 1,000th and the team was not prepared to celebrate the milestone.
He broke the mark a few days later and was given a signed jersey by the team. His older brother, Avi , a 2008 Maimonides alum who was the last player to score 1,000, is now an assistant on the team.
“It was pretty special,” Avi said. “It’s an awesome thing to see your little brother do.”
The night offered Yoni a chance to reflect on his high school career. He recalled getting frustrated early in his freshman season when he worked hard in practice but still only saw limited minutes.
“Looking back, the hard work does pay off,” he said. “If you work hard, anything can be accomplished.”
Now, Yoni and the M-Cats have their sights set on earning the school’s first tournament win since Avi was in eighth grade 10 years ago.
“Some state tournament wins would be awesome,” Yoni said.
Gelb said the key to success will be the rest of his team hitting open shots that come against the box-and-one.
Sophomore Yoni Gelb , Ed’s son and the team’s second-leading scorer, will help in that effort. Gelb had a career-high 27 points Tuesday against St. Clement, but Maimonides had no answer for Anchorman junior guard Brandon Williams in a 67-64 defeat. The loss was only the M-Cats’ third in MIAA play, though it was their second to St. Clement.
Next year, Yoni Klausner is headed to Israel for religious study, a destination for many Maimonides grads. Regardless of how his high school career ends, his brother said Yoni has learned a lot on the court.
“The lesson he’ll take with him for the rest of his life — wherever he goes — is if you work hard on something over a long period of time, it pays off,” Avi said. “He’s scoring a ton of points because he puts in a ton of work. He works really hard.”
Ed Gelb said that message has also spread to Yoni Klausner’s younger teammates.
“He isn’t the highest leaper in world, he just really worked on his game,” Gelb said. “Yoni is just a really good kid doing it the right way who makes it easy to root for him.”
Trio leads Blue Hills
During his first season as girls’ varsity coach at Blue Hills Regional in Canton three years ago, Tom McGrath saw the potential in a trio of freshman starters.
“From the first game — from the very first game — I could see it was something very special,” he said. “These three kids, we build the program around them.”
Now in their senior season, they are still living up to their promise. In a 66-49 win over Diman on Feb. 7, senior Margarita Delaporta of Canton joined classmate Michaela Adams of Braintree as a member of the 1,000-point club in the middle of a 27-point performance. Delaporta, Adams, and fellow senior Sinead Dacko of Holbrook have helped the Warriors start 17-0 after losing eight seniors from the team that went 20-0 last season.
Last year’s squad was the first Warriors team to go undefeated in the regular season and won the school’s second-straight vocational title, but Adams, Delaporta, and Dacko are hoping to make even more history in their final year.
“They want to be a part of the history of the school,” McGrath said.
Hard work pays off
After playing three games in four days last week, the Scituate boys started Monday’s practice with a shooting drill. Well, there was shooting involved. The full-court drill was loud, fast, and complicated. There were five players moving at all times, chasing balls flying across the court, but it was all organized exactly how coach Matt Poirier drew it up.
His whistle brought the players to a silent halt. Seconds later, the noisy machine was up and running again.
“The first practice I had up here was eye-opening — shocking,” senior captain Keegan True said. “You got seniors yelling at you to do stuff. . . . It took a while to get used to but once you get used to it, it all flows.”
The Sailors have been working hard all season to replace four starters who graduated from last year’s team, which reached the EMass. Division 2 final at TD Garden. This year’s team does not have that type of experience, but senior captain Noma Okundaye said it makes up for it with energy.
“Our energy is huge,” Okundaye said. “Our energy is so much higher this year. . . . Everybody is always bringing liveliness to this team.”
Scituate opened this season 6-0, but then lost four of its next seven, including a pair of losses to North Quincy (61-35 and 72-30) that Poirier mentioned multiple times to motivate his players during practice Monday.
Scituate has bounced back from those defeats; the Sailors beat Middleborough, 72-36, Tuesday for their third straight win. Okundaye had 20 in the victory as he and 6-6 junior Ben McLarey have led the team offensively.
McLarey said he hopes this team’s hard work pays off come tournament time.
“I don’t want [last year’s success] to be the highlight of my entire high school career . . . so I want to get back there again,” he said. “But we aren’t thinking about that right now.
“We’re taking it one practice at a time.”
The Duxbury girls cleared one of their biggest hurdles to an undefeated regular season Tuesday, beating Quincy, 45-38, to move to 17-0.Jacob Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.