Late Game Heroics Win Dramatic Game for Runnin’ Rebels
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In mid-January, two teams stood out in PSAL’s JV Basketball Manhattan III League: the East Side Community (ESC) Tigers had held first place all season with a commanding 5-0 record, and Stuyvesant’s own Runnin’ Rebels were one win away, standing at 4-0. The Rebels had just rattled off back-to-back wins against Bayard and Baruch, the two other top-ranked teams, in addition to 45-point wins over School of the Future on December 15 and Norman Thomas on December 16. Only the top team in the league can make the playoffs, so a win against the Tigers was crucial for the Rebels’ hopes to make a playoff run. These two titans of JV basketball clashed on Thursday, January 27, in one of the most dramatic and emotional basketball games to grace the sixth floor gym.
A week before the ESC game, the Rebels faced an unexpected challenge against the School of the Future Bulldogs. In the Rebels’ first blowout win against Future, two Bulldogs players had been restricted from play. This was not the case on the January 20, and the outcome was drastically different.
The added sophomore Bulldogs, Daniel Chauvin and Kamari Frederick, impacted the game by combining for 28 points and 15 rebounds through just three quarters of play, leading the Bulldogs to a 53-50 victory. The Rebels particularly identified Chauvin’s energy as the reason they lost the game. “He talked a little too much, but he was able to back it up. He’s really the reason they won,” freshman and forward Samay Kothari said.
Chauvin was able to energize his bench, made easier by the no-spectators policy active at the time, which weakened Stuyvesant’s home advantage. “We really need to get more rebounds in those situations. We shouldn’t have lost that game, but he was good individually, no doubt,” sophomore and captain Ichiro Goodrow said. Coming off that disappointing loss, the Rebels were determined not to lose to East Side.
However, when the day finally came and the ball was in play, they looked like the exact opposite of a team that was second in the league. The Rebels made just two field goals and shot 50 percent on their free throws in the first quarter against the Tigers. Meanwhile, East Side was snagging every rebound and capitalizing on its second chance points.The quarter ended 21-7 in favor of the guests. This score was shocking, as the Rebels had not been down by more than 10 at any previous point in the season. “We really suffered in the first quarter because we weren’t coming out of the gate with the same desire to win as we normally would. Guys weren’t doing what they were supposed to, crashing the boards or finishing shots. It was just sloppy,” sophomore and captain David Glick said.
If there were any bright sides to the first quarter, they were guards freshman Yongjoon Lee and sophomore Asher Jiang. This game was Lee’s first official one, as he had missed the first five due to an injury. He showed high potential and an ability to penetrate the offense early in the game, but it was seemingly his lack of experience that held him to two points. Jiang is the starting point guard for the Rebels and one of their highest-scoring players. Toward the end of the first quarter, he was subbed back in for Lee, and the energy of the Rebels was immediately rejuvenated. “With [Jiang] on the floor, we play a lot more organized. He’s a really good floor general. He can pull up and make his own shots but always makes sure to get everyone involved and find the best looks,” Glick said. However, Jiang’s high-level playmaking wasn’t enough to dig the Rebels out of their hole, especially since the recipients of his passes weren’t hitting their shots.
The Rebels’ situation didn’t improve in the second period. At the opening of the quarter, sophomore and starter Jared Virasami, one of the team’s premier shooters, left the game with a severe ankle sprain. It was at this point that the Rebels’ offense began to revolve entirely around Jiang. In the second quarter, he assisted or scored on all but one of the Rebels’ baskets, and the team began to come alive. Freshman and guard Terrence Liao hit a deep three, and Jiang made an impressive finish, plus a foul off of a steal. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Jiang didn’t get up after a hard foul driving into the paint a few minutes into the third quarter. He had run into the Tigers’ center and hit his head on the hardwood. When he sat down, he began to cough up blood and had trouble breathing. The game was stopped for almost 20 minutes while school officials were alerted, and an ambulance was called for Jiang, who was diagnosed with multiple bruised organs. “Losing [Jiang] was actually a really scary and emotional moment. I heard his head hit the floor, and I didn’t know if he was going to be alright. [It was] definitely a rough few minutes. But in the end, it became a really powerful thing for us to rally around, and we played perfectly in the second half,” Glick said.
And indeed, they did play perfectly. After a few rousing cheers of “For Asher!” from the huddle, the Runnin’ Rebels returned to play for the rest of the half with a new hunger. The desire to win that Glick mentioned seemed to return to the Rebels. Through the last two quarters, scoring numbers from Goodrow and Glick tripled, and rebounding numbers vastly improved. Glick and Kothari combined for 24 rebounds, which were crucial to their comeback.
Much of the Rebels’ success in the latter half can be attributed to contributions from beyond the lines of the court. The atmosphere of the gym was electric. The boys’ varsity basketball team watched from the doorway, and their combined cheering with the Rebels’ bench left many throats sore. During every defensive possession, the deafening percussion of the “DE–FENSE” chant thundered throughout the gym. On offense, the crowd erupted at any foul, clean pass, dribble move, or basket.
Almost the entire roster got the opportunity to play in the last half of the game, and most played spectacularly. Liao hit a pair of shots from deep, which caused a bench reaction that almost blew the windows out of the gym. Goodrow connected on a high difficulty and one attempt that elicited a similar response, flexing his arms in a show of bravado after the layup. “Our bench is different from other teams’ because ours has an ability to show up in the clutch almost as well as some of our starters. They pulled through big time,” Goodrow said.
Kothari finished the game with a pair of free throws that expanded the lead to eight, and Stuyvesant finally toppled the last remaining undefeated team in their division to take first place with a 6-1 record. “The win over East Side was important because after that, we’d basically beaten all the really good teams in the league, so we knew where we were relatively, and we knew what damage we could do,” Glick said.
Apart from being a statement win for the Rebels, their victory over the East Side Tigers spoke to the camaraderie and loyalty within the team. “[It was] kind of an all-for-one type of mentality, how we all rallied around [Jiang]. When he fell, we all got hurt, and then we pulled it together and won. Our team spirit is unmatched. It was beautiful,” Goodrow said.