"We would pass it around," explained Freel, who helped his Bux-Mont JCC team run a motion offense. "Our best chances came when someone was cutting through the middle."
Freel had a tough task at hand, as his team, bedecked in red jerseys over green shirts that represented the JCC, was pitted against last year''s bronze-medal winners, who also represented Bux-Mont – the institution sent two contingents because of the sheer number of eager kids who signed up.
"We have more Montgomery County, Lafayette Hill, Plymouth Meeting and Plymouth Whitemarsh players," said Bruce Brownstein, coach of the silver-medal-winning Bux-Mont team after its defeat at the hands of Freel and his crew. "We''re really Mont, and they''re really Bucks."
Freel, whose team went undefeated during the tournament, credited his performance to hard work.
Simply Buzzing with Excitement
Throughout the daylong games, the JCC Kaiserman branch in Wynnewood buzzed with excitement as 513 athletes from 17 different hometown JCCs competed in soccer, basketball, tennis, table tennis, chess, dance and swimming. The Olympics-style games featured kids, ages 10 to 12, from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The co-ed tennis matches, along with the boys soccer and basketball events, were held at nearby Friends Central High School, with buses shuttling athletes to and from each site. This year marked the first time since 2000 that Philadelphia hosted the mid-Atlantic event.
By the pool deck, many were stunned when 11-year-old Rachel Brown showed up with a cast on her arm, but soldiered through the pain to swim for the Kaiserman branch.
"When I fell, I was like, ''Oh no.'' I was nervous that I wasn''t going to be able to compete," said Smith, who broke her wrist and her thumb rollerblading just three weeks before the event.
Fitted with a waterproof cast, she hoped that she could somehow still swim, and was given her doctor''s permission just days before the event.
One major stipulation was that Smith not dive into the water when starting a race; another was that she only swim the 50- and 100-yard breast stroke.
The inability to dive presented a hindrance to Smith''s performance because the other competitors were able to get off to a faster start. Though she didn''t place in either event, her team gave her an honorary gold medal for her courageous performance.
"I think I definitely could have won a couple medals, probably in freestyle," she lamented. "I lost 12 seconds on my 100 freestyle time [since last year]."
Other notable performances included the Klein branch winning two gold and two bronze medals in swimming, and the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, N.J., taking home a bronze medal in basketball, as well as 37 swimming medals.
Over at Friends Central''s soccer fields, the Bucks County soccer team put together an impressive string of victories.
Defenseman Dakota Kaleck, 12, provided a bright spot in the team''s semi-final game, drilling a penalty shot into the top left corner.
After the 9-1 victory, Kaleck, who played right alongside his brother, Rider, seemed poised for a rematch with Bux-Mont, the only team to beat them in the preliminary rounds.
The championship game proved defensive, with Bucks County having trouble generating offense; in the end, Bucks lost 1-0. Perhaps contributing to the defeat was a controversial "no-call" by the referees after a takedown of Matt Robbins, causing Bucks to lose a chance for a penalty kick.
"I kind of got nailed, but there was no call," lamented Robbins. "It could''ve been a crucial part of the game, but we have no control over that stuff."
After the game, Bucks coach John Czapor said he was proud of the way his team carried themselves on the field.
"The kids played real well," he said. "It was very competitive."