Rebels in Review: New Year’s Resolutions

The struggle to fit in is real for the boys varsity basketball team, which is now winless in its first eight.

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This is the first edition of “Rebels in Review,” where I deliver a game-by-game breakdown of the last two weeks in Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity basketball. Here’s how the Stuyvesant’s Runnin’ Rebels closed out the first half of their 2019-20 season:

Murry Bergtraum Blazers 110—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 44

The real question was not if the still undefeated Murry Bergtraum Blazers would take this one, but rather by how much. The answer was, well, by a lot. There’s no real way to sugarcoat this one, as the Blazers put on a thorough clinic. Fortunately though, this rather alarming result helped bring to the forefront some of the problems that had been flaring up in the Runnin’ Rebels’ play during the previous three games.

The headline issue in this game was the Rebels’ poor ball management in their own half from the second quarter onward, which led to many turnovers and, therefore, many easy points against. Some of this could be attributed to the Blazers’ lengthy forwards relentlessly pressuring the Rebels’ outlet passers from tip off to the final buzzer, seldom giving them room to make good decisions with the ball. Coach Paul Goldsman partially chalked up the Rebels’ unforced errors to exhaustion but also recognized the necessity of better ball distribution in future contests.

“I think we got frazzled, and we started making bad passes, which led to easy layups. [The second quarter is] when the game really got away from us. [One] of our issues that has plagued us throughout the season [has] been turnovers because of poor passing, poor lob passing, and that presented itself again today. But we’ll learn from this, and we’ll keep getting better,” he said.

Senior guard Brian Poon, who was active all over the court, led all players with three successful shots from beyond the arc and all Rebels with 16 points. “A big problem for [us] has always been turnovers. If we play calm and collected, we can definitely minimize them and take control of the game,” he said.

The two standouts from the previous game against the Bayard Titans, senior center Samson Badlia and junior guard Nikkie Lin, both came away with respectable performances, tallying eight and six points, respectively. Badlia also led the team with nine total rebounds.

Washington Irving 81—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 43

Playing games while chasing from behind has practically been a running theme for the Rebels this season. This game, however, particularly stung, as it was the first game this season in which the Rebels trailed by double digits coming out of the first quarter (24-8), having played against a team that was second to last in the Manhattan A1 Division.

Despite season highs in scoring from Badlia (10 points) and junior guard Michelangelo Pagan (10 points) helping the Rebels keep pace throughout the middle of the game, the team could never garner enough of a run to dig itself out of its first quarter hole.

Though the absence of Lin due to illness was not the deciding factor in this one, it was definitely felt by the team.

Norman Thomas Tigers 89—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 55

For the second consecutive game, the Rebels were left in the dust by a slow start, exiting the first quarter down by 18. Though the Rebels ended up posting one of their best offensive performances of the season, spearheaded by a new season high of 17 points from Badlia, the team encountered many of the same issues as in previous games.

Among those problems was once again poor perimeter defense, which, coupled with a lack of success from the three-point line, put the Rebels in an unpleasant situation similar to their game against the Titans. The Norman Thomas Tigers advanced early, knocking down seven of their nine total three-pointers in the first half, making it difficult for the Rebels’ lockdown efforts in the later stages of the game to have a big impact on the final result.

Notable performers included Poon, who logged his fifth straight game with at least seven points, and senior captain Ben Zenker, who finished with seven total rebounds and nine pointshis most since the Rebels’ game against the East Harlem Pride.

Eleanor Roosevelt Huskies 69—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 51

The Rebels were once again denied a win by the Eleanor Roosevelt Huskies, despite Badlia and Zenker combining for a total of 30 points.

Another second quarter of lacking three-point defense from the Rebels arguably broke open the game; they were outscored by only one point over the course of the other three quarters (44-43). If eradicated, the disparity in three-point shooting, identical to the previous game in which two were scored and nine were conceded, could have given the Rebels their first win of the year. Unfortunately, the Rebels’ high-intensity play, particularly later in the game, was not reflected in the score due to this lingering issue.

The Huskies, who are tied for second to last in the Manhattan A1 Division, were the only team that the Rebels defeated last year (on the last day of the regular season).

Hunter College Hawks 55—Stuyvesant Runnin’ Rebels 46

As the Rebels enter winter break, they will be wondering how they let this one slip through the cracks.

In another matchup against a sub-.500 opponent, the Rebels’ offense proved not quite deep enough in order to finally get the win. Over half of their total points came off an explosive 25-point performance from Badlia, once again rewriting his personal best as a member of the varsity team and making him the highest scorer on the squad at a rate of 14.5 PPG. The big man also nearly doubles up everyone on the team in rebounds with 10 per game. He credited much of his recent offensive success to quicker on-ball decisions, emphasizing the importance of making the more obvious play over the prettier one.

“I just played more freely and tried not to overthink every time I touched the ball,” he said. “The first few games I tried to make the best possible decision, and that ended up leading to turnovers and stuff, but the last few games I started playing more freely. The team began making better and stronger passes overall, which led to us being able to run a better offense.”

“But the biggest thing was [that] I made my layups,” he said.

Of course, for someone credited with a team-high 33 two-point field goalsmostly off looks in front of the basketputting away more high-percentage shots presents an easy opportunity to boost his scoreline. Unfortunately, the Rebels could not generate a win off this performance, finishing the first half of the season without a victory.

The Rebels, who went on a 15-game slide last year, are in familiar territory. The playoffs look like a speck in the distance, and though the team knows exactly the needs it must address to improve their play, namely a stable defensive strategy and better on-ball decision-making, the team’s progression in these areas has unfortunately not been enough. Hope remains that the recent offensive surges of players such as Badlia, combined with smarter ball distribution and more effective defensive play, will make a much more promising 2020 for this group.


Mon, 1/6/20: vs. Hunter College Hawks (4-3)

Thu, 1/9/20: vs. Seward Park Bears (5-3)

Mon, 1/13/20: vs. East Harlem Pride (4-3)

Thu, 1/16/20: vs. Bayard Titans (3-3)

Fri, 1/17/20: vs. Murry Bergtraum Blazers (8-0)