A crowd of 19 family members cheered from the stands as Marissa Cannon, 17, helped bring home the gold. Cannon, the daughter of Lisa and Barry Kopit of Bethesda, played point guard for the U.S. girls’ 16- to 18-year-old basketball team during this summer’s Maccabiah Games in Israel. The girls beat the Canadian team in the gold medal game by 51 points, the highest point differential in any Maccabiah basketball game in the history of the games.
Cannon was taught to play basketball by her older brother when she was a little girl. Team play began while in elementary school at Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital. She continued for Pyle Middle School, increasing her training and workouts. As a member of the Adas Israel USY basketball team, she helped secure the local championship the past two years. Having just begun her senior year at Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School, she has been a member of the school’s basketball program all four years, playing junior varsity the first two years and moving to varsity in her junior year. Last year, the team won the regionals.
Along the way, she has participated in six Maccabi Games including Cherry Hill, Baltimore, Tennessee and a regional game in Israel.
This year her coach from the Greater Washington Maccabi team recommended her to the Maccabiah team coaches. After two days of tryouts in New York this past September, she made the team. Her twin sister, Maddie also made the team but stayed in the States to play in tournaments.
“Amazing girls tried out,” Cannon remembers. “I was really fortunate to make the team.”
The team finally met in Israel on July 6. There they completed a four-day boot camp with two practices a day for two hours each. They worked on plays and defense and working together as a team. “We just kind of clicked,” she said.
The team played a total of five games — one against Israel and two games each against Australia and Canada. There were only three opponents in the division. Team USA was undefeated.
Joining Cannon’s family was Daniel Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel, and his family. Shapiro’s wife, Julie, taught Marissa and her siblings when they were students at JPDS-NC.
Said Cannon of the experience, “The stands were filled. Everyone was cheering the U.S. on. It was amazing to see everyone there to support our team. It made a huge difference — gave us energy and momentum and that’s how we won the game.”
The team stays close through various forms of social media. After high school, Cannon hopes to play basketball in college and return again to Maccabiah.
The family was also able to cheer on cousin Jason Belinkie, as the men’s half-marathon team brought home the silver medal. Belinkie, 31, is the son of David and Julie Silver of Bethesda and cross country coach at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.