Runnin’ Rebels Open Season With Nail-Biter

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Every fan in the bleachers, every coach and player on the bench and on the court swiveled their heads in unison as the ball arched toward the basket; no one had as much anticipation, however, as senior Nicholas Kim, whose arm was still suspended in the air as his wrist flicked. The entire gym followed the ball as it bounced off the back of the rim and onto the court below. Just missing that final shot, the Runnin’ Rebels, Stuyvesant’s boys’ basketball team, were defeated in a nail-biter in their season opener against the Hunter College High School Eagles. The final score was 42-41.

It was a back-and-forth game, with the Rebels surging to an early lead but getting blown out in the second quarter 18-7. Despite winning the last two quarters and going on a late run, the team fell just short of a comeback. The Rebels struggled with unforced turnovers throughout the game, according to both senior Nicola Manfredi and Kim. “There wasn’t a lot of flow in the game,” Manfredi said. “There was a lot of subbing, so no one could really get into the gist of the game.” Despite three relatively stagnant quarters to start the contest, the Rebels seemed to finally gain some momentum late in the fourth quarter. The run was sparked by a three-pointer from Kim, followed by several stops on the defensive side of the ball. In wake of the heartbreaking loss, the Rebels have managed to extract some positives. “We moved the ball around well; we took good shots. I thought our defense was very good as well. We only held them to 42 points,” Manfredi said.

In addition to this league opener against the Eagles, the Rebels have played three non-league games, winning one of the three. They faced Leon M. Goldstein High School for Science and Jacqueline K. Onassis Intel Careers in a Thanksgiving tournament at Millennium High School, falling 46-64 and prevailing 59-55, respectively. Finally, they were ousted by Martin L. King Jr. 23-48 soon before the regular season opener. Junior Richard Zheng emerged as a scoring threat in these games, which meant good news for the future of Stuyvesant basketball.

In league play, the Rebels have struggled thus far. They currently sit at the bottom of their division with an 0-3 record. After the home opener, they dropped two straight against the Eleanor Roosevelt High School Huskies and the East Harlem Pride. The scores were 47-57 and 52-64, respectively. However, the team showed signs of progress in the East Harlem game as senior Michael Gillow joined Kim and Manfredi in double-digit point scoring.

The Rebels have set their goals high; as both Kim and Manfredi said, their ultimate goal is “to make playoffs.” However, they have kept themselves grounded. “For now, we just want to win one game at a time,” Kim said. Their most conspicuous issues thus far have been turnovers and a lack of flow. Nonetheless, the team is optimistic and attributes much of its struggles to getting used to a new system with first-year coach, guidance counselor Paul Goldsman, and the new players on the team getting used to playing at the fast-paced varsity level. “With a new coach, the returners had to adapt to a new play-style, and the rookies have to experience playing basketball on the varsity level. Moving forward, I know that we'll start to grow together and learn how to play with one another,” Kim said.

Clearly, the entire team is on the same page. “Since half the varsity team is new, my goal is to get the players acclimated with each other. I often switch lineups (both in games and in practice) to help ensure that different players learn multiple positions, as well as how to play the game with different people,” Goldsman said. While citing the same weaknesses as his players, Goldsman also gave his coach’s insight into the things this year’s squad has going for it. He said, “Players are always willing to make the extra pass and find the open man. Nobody dominates the ball and everyone is always involved in our offense. I think this can be attributed to our players wanting to make each other better, while also ensuring that everyone feels like a member of the team.” Also, “the players, especially our seniors, have been guiding the other players and giving them instruction and encouragement. They provide guidance on running certain plays and make keen observations during the game,” Goldsman said.

As they continue to adjust and work out the kinks in their new system, the Rebels anticipate the season, which will be going into full throttle shortly, with optimism. “I know that our coach knows what he's doing and our players have a passion to win, so hopefully, the pieces will start falling into place,” Kim said. Led by Kim and Manfredi, the team will look to build off the positives against Hunter to remain competitive in the Manhattan A1 division. “I know that as we continue to learn the plays and build up confidence, we will score more points, which will result in some victories,” Goldsman said.