For the first time in school history, Denver Jewish Day School has won a state championship.
The DJDS varsity boys basketball team took down the #1 Seed Belleview Christian 55-42 at the Budweiser Events Center on Saturday night, March 11.
In front of an electric crowd of at least 500 fans from the Denver Jewish community, the DJDS Tigers became the third Jewish school in the US to win a basketball state title.
Some players, coaches and members of the DJDS community have dreamed about this state championship for decades. On March 11, 2023, that dream became a reality. No one had envisioned it longer than DJDS
Varsity Boys Head Coach Michael Foonberg.
“I’ve been coaching these seniors since they were in kindergarten,” said Foonberg. “I knew this day would happen. I knew it. I really did.”
Foonberg has been coaching the varsity boys basketball team at DJDS for the past 17 years. Now, Foonberg gets to ride off into the sunset as a state champion.
“What these boys just accomplished for the Jewish people is truly remarkable,” added Foonberg.
“These boys were representing the Jewish people every time they stepped onto the court, and I could not be more proud.”
There could not have been a better ending to the final season of Foonberg’s coaching career.
His son Gavin (1st Team All-League), a senior, helped complete the final chapter of this story. Gavin was a four-year varsity basketball player under his dad at DJDS, and although he may not look like a basketball player from afar, he just cemented himself as the best player in school history.
Gavin has led Colorado in assists per game the past two seasons in all classes, 1A through 6A.
Gavin averaged 8.7 assists per game this season, which ranked 23rd for all high school players in the country.
He set the all time DJDS records for points scored, three-pointers, assists and steals. His friends and family joke that he was born with a basketball in his hands.
Fellow senior Ilan Schinagel scored a game-high 25 points for the Tigers in the title game, capping off a stretch of the best basketball he has ever played. Schinagel also scored 24 points in the Final 4 against the defending 1A champs, McClave.
Gavin injured his hamstring in the Sweet 16 game against Eads, but Schinagel and the rest of the Tigers squad picked up their teammate, who played through what is likely to be a torn hamstring all the way through the title game.
Senior Andrew Zimmerman (1st Team All-League) led the way in the Great 8 against Genoa Hugo with 24 points and 7 rebounds and had another notable game in the Final 4 with 13 points and 17 rebounds against a much bigger McClave team.
Junior Keenan Winnerman was the pillar of the Tigers’ defense all season, shutting down the opponent’s best player each game while also scoring 9.6 points per game and securing 5.3 rebounds per game.
Senior Jonathan Noam played the best basketball of his high school career, helping Winnerman solidify the defense.
Juniors Lev Friedman and Aaron Daniel were key role players off the bench. Friedman hit perhaps the biggest shot of the season, draining a three-pointer with seconds left in the 3rd quarter and played great defense, while Daniel made timely rebounds and blocked shots.
This team was rounded out by Ben Brunschwig (senior), Tyler Marshall and David Romershteyn (juniors) and Solly Bielsky (freshman).
We’re a mishpacha (family),” says Gavin Foonberg. “The brotherhood we created and the bonds we all formed as teammates are indescribable. We’ve been chanting that word at the end of every team huddle for as long as I can remember. This year, we truly were a mishpacha. We always played for and with each other.”
The mishpacha extends to the coaching staff, with Matan Halzel (class of 2012), Sam Rotbart (class of 2010) and Todd “The Wizard” Tyrrell all suiting up as assistant coaches.
Each coach developed close friendships with the players, ensuring that they were always playing their best.
The #2 Seed Tigers averaged 18 assists per game this season as a team, which led Class 1A in Colorado.
This team made the extra pass to lead to a wide-open shot and was known for its ball movement on the offensive end.
In addition to the Tigers playing a beautiful and selfless brand of basketball, it was evident this entire season that these boys had one goal and that they were going to accomplish it together.
Says Foonberg. “These guys worked so hard all season long, and they’re like kids to me. We made history.”
The Tigers finished with a 22-3 record, clinched back-to-back 5280 League district championships in February, and after advancing to the state tournament for the first time in school history, they went on to win the championship. It was a magical run for a father, a son and the entire team.