Girls Hoops: Shiraliga playoff brings out the crowds

On Tuesday, hundreds of girls gathered at the Heichal HaSport complex in Malha to participate in the annual season-ending tournament of Shiraliga basketball, the first Israeli league run by and for young women athletes.
There was much tension and cheering in the arena, but this time it was not for the Hapeol Jerusalem team. Rather, it was for the students playing in Shiraliga. Fourteen teams took part in the competition, with each team representing a different school in the Jerusalem area.
There were two divisions of competitors – Junior High School Division (grades 7-8) and the High School Division (grades 9-12). In the Junior High School Division, Hartman and Chorev met in the finals and waged a dramatic battle.
Although Hartman was went into halftime ahead by two points, the Chorev players emerged victorious in the end by a score of 26-18.
The main event involved the High School competition. After several elimination games, Ohr Torah and Ofra emerged as the two finalists.
In the end, Ohr Torah took the title in an exciting 16-13 affair.
The tournament was set up as a mini-playoff, based on the scores and victors of the games during the year, which determined which teams would play each other.
During the one-day playoff tournament, each team played three games of 20 minutes each (four five-minute quarters.)
Several hundred women and girls came as fans to give support to the various teams. These included mothers, grandmothers, sisters and friends from school. The cheering and beating of the drums was so loud that it could be heard from several blocks away.
One of the mothers of a player remarked: “I was sitting on the edge of my seat for three straight hours! It was amazing!”
Shiraliga, the basketball league for young women that began just two years ago in the Jerusalem area, has 16 ongoing teams participating from grades 7-12, and includes over 220 players.
The league, until now, has been set up for religious girls, and every aspect of the league involves only women: players, coaches, referees, medics, scorekeepers and fans. This allows every religious girl to participate, no matter what her background or religious outlook.
Over the course of each year, five tournaments take place in Shiraliga.  The founder and director of the league, Shira Amsel, plays for theHapoel Jerusalem Women’s team, and is also a successful teacher ofphysical education.
Shira explained that there is a greatdesire by girls to expand their athletic horizons and take part inorganized basketball, while, at the same time, keeping Jewish law andlaws of modesty.
Amsel also explained how the idea ofShiraliga was born: “I began the league for various reasons andpurposes. When I was in high school in Jerusalem I had a great desireto take part in organized sport as a religious girl, but there were nooptions for me. Shiraliga was created so that girls of today with thosesame desires are now able to fulfill them.”   Next year, Shiraliga isexpected to include teams from elementary schools and also teams formothers.
For more information on Shiraliga, please visit