Last season, the referees’ failure to count the game-tying basket ended Stuyvesant’s varsity basketball team’s championship dreams prematurely in the first round of the playoffs. Even after video evidence proved that the final score of the game against Food and Finance High School was 40-40, not 40-38, it was still ruled a loss for Stuyvesant, eliminating them from the playoffs. This season, the Runnin’ Rebels are back, and with a vengeance.
“We really don’t want to go out like that again this year,” senior and co-captain Nolan Becker said. “If we work hard the rest of this year, we’ll be in a position where it won’t even be a close game in the playoffs.”
The Rebels got their first taste of such a lopsided win in an unofficial game on Friday, November 26, when they defeated the Engineers of Brooklyn Technical High School by a score of 66-51.
The first quarter started out with a couple of big dunks by Tech’s 6’6’’ junior Oshane McRae, before Stuyvesant silenced him by placing more defenders under the basket. The Rebels then countered with a few inside shots, including a three-point play by Becker in which he sunk the basket and drew a foul for a successful free throw, tying the game at 10. A few steals and good defense by Stuyvesant closed out the quarter with the Rebels leading 21-18. The second quarter went back-and-forth, and ended with the Rebels up 36-35. Becker contributed 22 of the first half’s 36 points. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s our leading scorer by the end of the season,” coach and physical education teacher Phil Fisher said of Becker.
After leading by only one point at halftime, the Rebels went on a 16-2 scoring run in the third quarter, holding the Engineers to two points, both of which came on free throws. Tech’s star power forward, junior Kherel Silcott, got ejected from the game when he received a technical foul for an unsportsmanlike push, enabling the Rebels to go on such a dominating run.
However, the Rebels’ concentration did waver a bit during the fourth quarter. After leading by as many as 20 points, they turned the ball over a few too many times and the Engineers cut their deficit to 11. “We don’t know how to finish off games yet,” Fisher said.
Although this game was not an official league game, it did give the Rebels a boost of confidence. “It’s always nice to beat another specialized school,” Becker said. “We beat them last year, too. It solidifies our position as a better team than them.”
After the game, many members of the Rebels were optimistic about the future of the team’s season. “We can go all the way with this team,” junior Ben Diamond said. “We’ve got the shooters, the kids inside, we’ve got the smart players. I really think we can win.”
A lot of the responsibility will fall on Becker and senior and co-captain Feng Ye. “They really inspire me to do well,” junior Petros Skaliarinis said of the captains.
“As a freshman on JV, I thought about how I could be the captain next year, so I tried to emulate these guys,” said junior Zachary Weiner, the captain of last year’s junior varsity team and current varsity rookie. “They have great work ethics.”
Last year, the team lost eight seniors to graduation. As a result, the current players have to pick up their games. “Every kid on this team has a role,” Fisher said.
The Rebels will need all these role players to contribute, especially in the division games. “All of the division games are very important,” junior Jack Margolis said. The Rebels went 10-8 against their own division last year, which just barely qualified them for the playoffs.
So far, the Rebels have started off their regular season well, with a convincing 77-61 victory over Murry Burgtraum High School on Wednesday December 3, and a close 56-54 win over George Washington High School on Friday, December 5.
Fisher, however, was not so sure of his team’s chances just yet. “Ask me again in a month or so,” he said.