Rebels Off To a Running Start
December 12th, 2002
The fans stomped their feet to the screaming chants of “DE-FENSE.” They heckled the opposing team when they missed free throw and waved yellow foam tubes to distract the other team. It was an above- average fan turnout to support the Rebels in their season opener and nobody went home disappointed.
One year after moving up to the Manhattan 1A division from the B division, the Rebels, Stuyvesant’s Varsity basketball team, is in a good position to improve on last year’s mediocre season. This year, expectations are high. “Our goal is to improve on last year, finish above .500, and make a run at the playoffs, possibly even the division,” said Coach Erik Connolly. Though the loss of former captain Omar Nokaly to graduation will be felt, the Rebels are a veteran team, made up of eleven returning players, eight of whom are seniors. Playing in a division in which many teams lost valuable senior players, the Rebels’ experience gives them an edge. “Our goal is to win and make the playoffs. We got everyone back this year,” said co-captain Waleed Farid.
After a month of hard practice and a successful preseason (3-1), the season kicked off Thursday afternoon against an inexperienced Brandeis team. The Rebels starters consisted of three seniors, center Martin O’Boyle, co-captain Eric Lockhart at power forward, and Farid at small forward, and two juniors, point guard Jarvis Miu and shooting guard Jacob Smith.
The game plan was to concentrate on the Rebels’ strengths on offense, which meant fast breaks and quick ball movement, and to defend with a strong zone. “The zone defense makes us stronger because of our size (Farid, Lockhart, and O’Boyle average about six feet and four inches) down low. On offense we will just try to move the ball around to the open man. If they play us man [to man], we will give Waleed the ball in the isolation and hopefully he will score or get to the foul line,” said Coach Connolly. The game plan worked perfectly.
Farid started the game missing his first two shots, scoring his first point three minutes into the game. From there he took control, ending the first quarter scoring nine of the team’s final twelve points and giving the Rebels a 17-10 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter also belonged to Farid, who scored 16 points in the quarter and contributed a scintillating block early in the quarter in which he pinned the ball against the glass, driving the crowd wild. The Brandeis defense had no answer for the fast-paced Rebel offense. Guard Jarvis Miu used his quickness and crafty dribble to get the ball across the court and avoid the Bulldog’s defensive press. The Rebels went into the locker room with a comfortable 42-20 half-time lead.
The third quarter was much more of a team effort. O’Boyle added four of his eight points, towering over Brandeis’s center for tip-ins on missed shots. Smith, who’s behind-the-back and no-look passes made the crowd rise to their feet, scored four of his eleven points. With 5:50 left in the third, Connolly took Farid, who had accumulated three fouls, out of the game. But when he came back in with a little over two minutes left in the quarter, he scored nine of the team’s last eleven points, two coming on an amazing reverse lay-up.
With a 27-point lead going into the last eight minutes of the game, Coach Connolly put some of the reserves in to get playing time. Farid’s eye-opening dunk early in the quarter was his only basket in the last quarter, giving him 38 on the day. Sixth man Dashiel Mitchell-Brody hit a jumper with a few seconds left finalizing the score, 69-44.
The defense played extremely well against a Brandeis team which had trouble penetrating and creating off the dribble. The Rebels had 13 blocked shots, four apiece from O’Boyle, Lockhart, and Farid. They did a good job of boxing out their opponents and collecting rebounds. Farid’s eleven rebounds gave him a double-double. “If there is something we need to improve it can be said in one word, defense, defense, defense. We are lazy getting back down the court and that’s going to hurt us against the faster teams,” said Connolly.
Next Tuesday, the Rebels will have their first real test of the season, Fredrick Douglas Academy, who last year won the division and beat up on a younger Rebels team. The Rebels are up to the challenge and they know a win can make them serious playoff contenders.