For the Runnin’ Rebels, 2010 began with a bang. Rejuvenated by the week-and-a-half long holiday break, the Rebels, Stuyvesant’s varsity basketball team, swept their three-game home stand. However, two consecutive road losses last week against the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex Titans and the Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School Jaguars have left the Rebels at 6-6 and barely hanging on to third place in the Manhattan A Southwest Division with slim playoff hopes.
“Mentally [the break] helped […] It was a nice way to sort of decompress and reflect on our play,” senior and shooting guard Ben Diamond said. “It was a chance for our bodies to rest and go into the second half of the season with everything we have.”
In the 15-game Public Schools Athletic League season the Rebels need at least eight wins to make the citywide playoffs. In their final three games, the Rebels play Beacon, Murry Bergtraum and Martin L. King Jr. High Schools. While Beacon has a 2-10 record, Murry Bergtraum and Martin L. King Jr. have a combined record of 16-5. The first time the Rebels met Murry Bergtraum on Wednesday, December 16, Murry Bergraum edged Stuyvesant 43-40 in the final quarter.
The Rebels, however, remain optimistic in the face of adversity. “I’m confident that we will win. If we take care of the ball and close out games we can definitely beat [Murry] Bergtraum and Beacon,” junior and forward Casey LaMountain said.
“We have to minimize turnovers and get high percentage shots down the stretch in order to contend with the better teams,” senior and point guard Petros Skaliarinis added. “I think the experience of close games has helped our mentality, and now that we have a tougher schedule we will be prepared to make the most of our opportunities.”
Turnovers, as well as an overall lack of concentration, have been the defining aspects of the entire Rebels season, win or lose. “We’re an immature team,” Diamond said.
In the first game of the home stand on Monday, January 4, the Rebels nearly blew a 16-point lead to the Seward Park Campus Bears in the final quarter of the game. The Rebels had three players in double figures, led by senior, captain, and forward Jack Margolis with 14 points. Crucial free throws in the final minutes by Margolis and sophomore Roy Vlcek, who finished with 13 points, sealed the 49-45 victory.
Not being able to put away their opponent in the games’ final eight minutes has been an ongoing problem for the Rebels. This is a major concern as they prepare to face more competitive teams in their final three games.
“We have to realize that the game is 32 minutes long. We have yet to play a complete game where we don’t have any mental lapses,” Skaliarinis said.
The transition into becoming a team that plays hard the entire game is not just about physical conditioning. “Our team is in good enough shape to play an entire game, [but] we let down our guard. Most of our team, myself included, don’t have the mental toughness to go as hard as we can for an entire game,” Diamond said.
Margolis, the team’s leading scorer with 14.2 points per game, carries the great responsibility of motivating his team in the final part of the season. “I try to be a model for the rookies so they know how the game should be played. On the court I just try to do my job and encourage others to do theirs,” Margolis said.
While Margolis seems to have his team’s mentality in check, the Rebels’ other leader, coach Phil Fisher, will make sure his team stays sharp physically. “[After the game on January 8] we practiced our butts off again,” Fisher said.
Expectations remain high as the team currently stands two games above .500. However, the Rebels have gotten away with countless mistakes so far this season, and they seem to have used up most of their luck. From this point on, the Rebels will have to remain mentally tough for a full 32 minutes to emerge victorious.