Rebels in Review: Finishing the Season Strong

Rebels finish their season strong despite early season struggles.

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A team’s record can never fully express the intricacies of its season. Just by checking the record of the Runnin’ Rebels, the Stuyvesant boys’ varsity basketball team, one may be significantly underwhelmed. Nevertheless, the Rebels demonstrated their season-long valiant effort and tenacity in their final four games, particularly in the finale against the Eleanor Roosevelt High School Huskies, their first win of the season. Here is a recap of the final stretch of games:

January 17, 2020: Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 53—Murry Bergtraum Blazers 89

In the Rebels’ second match-up with the undefeated Murry Bergtraum Blazers, no one thought the Rebels had a chance after losing their previous game against the Blazers by 66 points. But the Rebels played with heart and made the rematch more competitive than the first one. One of the Rebels’ main problems in this game and throughout the entire season was their free-throw shooting. They had a free-throw percentage of 54 percent while the Blazers shot 100 percent from the free throw line, putting the Rebels at an immediate disadvantage that they were never able to overcome. The Rebels’ lack of accuracy from the foul line, however, was counteracted by their defensive intensity in the second half, leading to a second-half score of 37-36. “The hustle, the defensive attitude, and effort is incredible and so obvious. […] [Their] defensive intensity was just amazing,” Coach Paul Goldsman said.

The Rebels’ scoring was spread out evenly amongst eight players, with only one of them hitting double digits. Senior forward and captain Ben Zenker paced the Rebels in scoring with 10 points, all on two-pointers. When asked about what he wants the team to carry into next year, Zenker spoke a lot about their mentality. “I don’t want to have Stuy be the team that rolls over when you come to play them. I want Stuy to be the team that always believes that they can beat you,” he said. His wish may be granted, as the only sophomore on the team, Ethan Kirschner, adopted this mentality, dropping his career-high of seven points on the first-place Blazers. Kirschner scored on all levels, hitting a three-pointer while also getting to the foul line.

January 24, 2020: Washington Irving Bulldogs 79—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 45

After losing by 38 points on their home court earlier this season to the Washington Irving Bulldogs, the Rebels went into this game guns blazing. “We came out and they just did not know what to do against us. Our offense was hitting on all cylinders against them,” Zenker said. The Rebels used this early offense to secure a decent first-quarter lead. Though they could not keep up this level of play for the entire game, the first quarter showed that they could compete with any team in their Manhattan A1 division, as the Bulldogs were in contention to make the playoffs at the time.

Senior center Samson Badlia led the Rebels in scoring with 16 points, all on two-pointers and free throws. The only other Rebel to score in the double digits was Zenker with 13 points. He scored in a similar way to Badlia: inside and at the free throw line. No one else really produced points as the next leading scorer, junior forward Nikkie Lin, only scored six points. The Rebels were unable to get their three-pointers to fall, only hitting one during the entire game.

January 28, 2020: Norman Thomas Tigers 91—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 46

In the Rebels’ second meeting with the Norman Thomas Tigers, the game ended with a similar score as the first. While the final score may show otherwise, the second half was extremely close, with the Rebels scoring 24 points against the Tigers’ 33 points. After starting off with a slow second half, junior Michelangelo Pagan and senior Lewis Woloch came out with intense defense, which energized the rest of the team. “Their team is bigger than us and they’re stronger, but we didn’t let that deter us,” Goldsman said.

For the second game in a row, Badlia led the team in scoring with 10 points—including one three-pointer—but the Tigers had four players who scored double figures, which the Rebels could not overcome. After being down 58-22 in the first half, the Rebels played the next half in a hostile environment, but showed great effort and determination against the fourth-place Tigers.

January 30, 2020: Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 49—Eleanor Roosevelt Huskies 46

Only two days after losing to Norman Thomas by 45 points, the Rebels, led by Zenker along with Badlia and senior guard Brian Poon, made sure to finish their season strong. With the entire gym packed with Stuyvesant students, the Rebels took the crowd’s energy and transferred it into their first win of the season, finishing in front with a final score of 49-46.

After presenting their first ever senior introductions to commemorate their final game of the season, the Rebels started slow but kicked off a couple of minutes into the first quarter with a putback by Badlia. They continued fighting and went into the second quarter with a 14-9 lead. The Huskies were able to keep the match close and even cut into the lead in the second quarter. It seemed that every other Husky possession ended in free throws as they achieved this lead at the free throw line. While the Rebels may not have been getting the calls they wanted, they prevailed, as the Huskies were unable to hit many of their subsequent free throw attempts. The score at half time had the Rebels at 25 and the Huskies at 22. Even though the Rebels went into the second half with the lead, they could not keep up the momentum into the third quarter and fell behind. The Rebels finished the third quarter with a strong run, scoring three unanswered points for a score of 37-33, Huskies up.

Toward the end of the fourth quarter, junior guard Mitchel Fogel went on a personal 8-0 run, hitting two three-pointers and a layup to overcome the gap. The Huskies were able to retake the lead with a score of 46-45. With a minute and a half left in the game, Badlia drew a foul in the paint and walked to the free-throw line to shoot two of the most crucial free throws of his career. First shot, airball. Rebels were down by one point. His second shot hit the rim but didn’t connect. Back on defense, the Rebels came up with the steal. Finally, with 10 seconds remaining, Poon hit a clutch layup to put the Rebels up by one point and the entire gym began to shake with excitement. Poon then hit two free throws, securing the Rebels their first win of the season.

Final Thoughts

This season was important and telling for the Rebels, who struggled with injuries throughout all 16 league games and countless scrimmages. Even after a few years without playoff berths, the Rebels still play with intensity and go into each game believing they can beat the opposing team. Whether or not the team will maintain this mindset is unclear, but this year's seniors have left both of Stuyvesant’s boys’ basketball teams with goals and a winning mentality that can hopefully change the course of Stuyvesant basketball for years to come. It doesn’t only start with the players either: having an intense crowd cheering on the team in the final game pushed the Rebels to play for their school and end their season with a win. So the next time you find yourself wandering the lonely halls of Stuyvesant at 6:30 p.m., go home. But if you are still unable to find the exit, stop by the third-floor gym and see the effort these student athletes put in every day to represent our school the best they can.