Runnin’ Rebels Aim High Despite Season-Opening Loss

The boys’ basketball team looks forward to the long season despite opening the season with a blowout loss.

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The Runnin’ Rebels, Stuyvesant’s boys’ basketball team, started their season with high anticipation on November 20 during their first game against Bayard Rustin Educational Complex.

Despite the initial strong start with junior Ben Zenker’s corner jumper, the Rebels’ lead did not last long. Late in the first quarter, the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex Titans attempted a baseline jumper, which bounced off the rim and headed toward the free throw line. Sophomore Christian Nwenyi fought for the rebound but lost to the Titan center, who immediately went up for a layup. Though he missed, the Titans’ possession did not stop. A Titan shooting guard darted toward the rim to clean up this rebound and put up another two points for the Titan team, extending the commanding lead that they had over the Rebels at the time.

The first half was an unfavorable one for the Rebels, as they were behind early. From the tip off, they struggled to drive toward the rim and make layups due to the pressure from Bayard. The 1-3-1 zone defense got under the skin of the Rebels and led to a frantic game with multiple costly Stuyvesant turnovers that Bayard converted on fast breaks.

Stuyvesant also struggled to get rebounds, with Bayard massively out-rebounding the Rebels and punishing them on the glass. Defense was also loose on Stuyvesant’s end. Coach George Stork consistently said to his players, “Put your arms out!” to emphasize the defensive stance that he wanted from his players on defense. The multitude of turnovers, however, tired the team out.

Ultimately, taller, bigger, and faster Titans players simply outmatched the Stuyvesant team and put the Rebels at a physical disadvantage. The team played with heart but could not come back from the huge score gap despite a valiant effort in the second half. The game ended 65-34 in Bayard’s favor.

Despite the tough loss, seniors and co-captains Ricky Zou and Richard Zheng displayed a great amount of leadership and aggressiveness in the first half, taking many good shots and strong drives to the basket that generated excitement from the crowd. And though the first half certainly did not set the tone for the game, the second half did see the team playing with more precision and strategy, making fewer turnovers and coming onto the court with a tighter defense. “I liked how we fought in the second half. There were certain members of the team who came in and really showed some spirit and played hard,” Stork said.

Because Stuyvesant has three freshmen and two sophomores on the team, the young members will be needed this season. One such moment came in when Nwenyi blocked a layup on a fast break attempt by Bayard that received a round of applause from the crowd. Freshman Ethan Kirshner also provided a spark off the bench with two threes late in the fourth quarter.

When asked about his thoughts on the game, leading scorer Zenker replied with the need to play smarter. “We just need to feel more comfortable and confident in our abilities. It was our first time out as a team, and we are still figuring each other out. Hence, we need to make smart choices and think if it’s the best option for the team. Obviously, Stuyvesant’s not the most athletic school, so he’s made it clear to us that we need to be smarter than the teams we play to win games,” Zenker said.

Even though the Rebels started the season with a loss, they have determination that they will improve as the season progresses. The team will try to improve on last year’s 2-14 record. However, in the same Manhattan A 1 Division, this could prove difficult. Coach Stork’s leadership and coaching will look to alleviate some of these doubts. “The point that [Stork] emphasized to us was that we needed to make sure that we learned from our mistakes and turned them into strengths in our upcoming games,” Zou said.