Runnin’ Rebels Prepared Prior to Playoffs

A review of the Boys’ Junior Varsity Basketball team season.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Francesca Nemati

The only season in which the Runnin’ Rebels, the boys’ junior varsity basketball team, has ever made the playoffs was the 2017-18 season. It was an exciting moment for the Runnin’ Rebels, as it proved that the team was capable of being a strong contender in its league. Though it is a tall order, the Runnin’ Rebels hope to repeat that success again this season.

Of the 17 players on the roster, only two are freshmen: Jefford Shau and Jeffrey Tan. Shau and Tan both agree that playing with the team has been a special opportunity for them, despite being the two youngest members on the team. “It’s cool, but you have to work hard. We are not really treated differently. Coach calls everyone a freshman,” Shau said. “It’s nice playing around older people ‘cause it makes you improve a lot,” Tan said.

With only two freshmen on the team, the Runnin’ Rebels have heavily relied on its large number of sophomores. However, most of the sophomores are new to the team. Sophomores and co-captains Aidan Fingeret, James Ly, and Deven Maheshwari are the only returning players from last year’s roster. Their veteran experience has come in handy as their passion and determination have led their young team to another playoff push. “For me, it was heartbreaking to not make it [to playoffs] last year, when we had a 10-4 record,” Maheshwari said.

With only two games left in the regular season, the Runnin’ Rebels rank right behind Baruch College Campus High School and ahead of School of the Future in a tight race to clinch the last playoff spot. “We plan to beat both Baruch and Chelsea to propel us into the playoffs,” Ly said. While the team’s desire to make the playoffs is clear, the Runnin’ Rebels will have to dig deep to execute their ambitious goals for the season.

The team started off the season on a very strong note, beating Bayard Rustin Educational Complex in its opening game on a buzzer beater. “We are the first JV team to beat Bayard in a long time,” Fingeret said. The fact that Bayard currently leads the division, with its only loss being against the Runnin’ Rebels, shows that the Runnin’ Rebels certainly have the talent to compete with the best. The Runnin’ Rebels continued to shine as they won four consecutive games by double-digit margins.

The real test for the Runnin’ Rebels came in January when the team was scheduled to play against the three fiercest teams in the division: School of the Future, Baruch, and Bayard. In addition to struggling with numerous injuries, many players were not getting proper sleep due to finals week. Though all three games were close, the Runnin’ Rebels succumbed to three consecutive defeats.

Just when the players had almost given up hope, February brought a promising new chapter for the team. They restarted their ways with a massive 48-24 win against East Side Community, where Maheshwari, Ly, and Fingeret scored an impressive combined total of 43 points. Earlier in the season, they had only managed to beat East Side Community by nine points, showing major offense improvement. After the victory, the team triumphed in three more games, most recently against School of the Future. “We had a few tough losses but we played really well this past Thursday to keep us in the playoff hunt,” Fingeret said.

Coach Howard Barbin has been instrumental in leading the Runnin’ Rebels through such an impressive comeback. “Coach Barbin’s power is unquestioned. If he says something, everyone listens. He is always telling us, ‘I would rather lose and play the right way than win and not,’” Maheshwari said. Even though each season brings a completely new group of players and team dynamic, the Runnin’ Rebels have consistently been in the fight for the playoffs for the past three seasons. This is greatly due to Coach Barbin’s ability to make adjustments based on each player’s strengths and weaknesses. In practice, he has fostered a competitive mentality in all his players and makes them work hard to achieve their ambitious goals. While the team’s defense has been very strong thus far, it has been working on improving its offense, especially because one of the team’s best three-point shooters, sophomore Kamran Chowdhury, has been injured for most of the season.

Maheshwari has also been vital to the success of the team. As a freshman, he averaged double-digits and led the team in scoring. This season, he has averaged nearly 20 points and nine rebounds per game, which are some of the highest statistics in recent years for the boys’ junior varsity basketball team. He also scored 30 points in the recent win over School of the Future, his highest tally of the season.

With guidance from Coach Barbin and a fervent determination to achieve greatness, the Runnin’ Rebels can persevere through their next few challenging games to earn a spot in the playoffs and advance in the standings. “We have been on the grind and putting in hard and consistent work to get that competitive edge to make playoffs and to maybe even win the championship,” Ly said. The Runnin’ Rebels are especially driven by the fact that for the sophomores, this is their time to cement their legacy in their second ever playoff appearance. For Shau and Tan, the future looks bright and hopefully they will bring more success and experience to the team next year with its promising players.