Reviewing the Runnin’ Rebels

Despite starting four freshmen and struggling with a lack of height, the Rebels showed unwavering determination and gave it their all on the court this season.

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Following an impressive 13-3 run in the previous season and a playoff berth, Stuyvesant’s boys’ JV basketball team, the Runnin’ Rebels, were back this season and determined to go far in the playoffs. Many of the team’s valuable players from the previous season had moved up to the varsity team, leaving the Rebels with four freshmen in their starting five.

However, the team’s youth should not undermine their talent. “This group was the most athletic group of freshmen I have ever had. They possessed quickness, jumping ability, and above average footwork for such a young group,” head Coach Howard Barbin said. This new group of freshmen showed extreme promise and gave it their all every game. Unfortunately, the Rebels ended the season with a 6-4 record, falling just short of the playoffs. 

Despite not making the playoffs, this team showed great resilience, determination, and potential for future success. One of the team’s strongest attributes the entire season was their defense. On average, the Rebels only gave up 42 points, while averaging 52 points a game themselves, a +10 differential. Additionally, the team had great chemistry, both on and off the court. “This team gelled super well and it has been my favorite sports team that I’ve ever been a part of,” sophomore and captain Eric Liu said. 

Liu was a pivotal part of the team, leading his freshmen teammates from the point guard position and earning MVP of the team. In a close and hard-fought game against longtime rival Bayard Rustin, Liu scored a season-high 28 points, bringing home the win for the Runnin’ Rebels. Alongside Liu, however, played four talented freshmen, who contributed to each win through excellent defense and rebounding.

Freshman forward Isaac Sprung led the team in rebounding this season with a total of 59 boards. In a very close game against Hunter, Sprung hit a mid-range jump shot to send the game into overtime. Though they ended up losing the game in double overtime, the moment showed the team’s ability to persist despite pressure and perform even in the most intense situations. Freshman guard Odin Boughal was another valuable asset to the team, averaging an impressive 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

The Rebels played to their strengths this season and took advantage of their young and agile roster. They tried to push the ball as much as possible up the court and go for fast-break layups. Their strong defense allowed them to force turnovers and capitalize on transition opportunities, utilizing their agility to convert easy scoring chances.

Despite their quickness and strength off the fast break, the Rebels still had some areas of their game which needed improvement. Barbin noted that the team needed to work on getting to the free-throw line, foul shooting, and staying out of foul trouble, all of which unfortunately cost them a few games this season. These improvements are essential because securing a playoff berth is not a simple task for any team. The bar is set so that only the top two teams in the division make the playoffs, making it imperative for a team to hone every aspect of their game to earn a spot.

One of the Rebels’ biggest disadvantages this season, and likely the deciding factor in them not making the playoffs, was their lack of height. “We are by far the smallest team in our league, and we had to fight for every win,” Sprung said. This was really unfortunate for the Rebels, as their height deficiency was beyond their control.

“If there was one major issue this year that hurt us, it was a lack of height. You cannot teach or coach height, and many games the opponent’s shortest player was bigger than our tallest player, but credit to the team—we fought as hard as we could and never gave up,” Barbin said.

The Rebels’ ability to perform competitively and secure wins against opponents significantly larger than them speaks volumes about their talent and potential. The team shows strong resilience, fighting continuously for the win even when the odds were stacked against them. Though the Rebels lost a few hard fought heartbreakers this season, they always bounced back and found a way to win the next game.

Another challenge the Rebels faced this season was the PSAL cutting the regular season from 16 games to only 10 games. This change gave the Rebels fewer opportunities to compete and prove themselves on the court. “I really enjoyed watching this group play and really feel that if the PSAL did not cut our season by six games we would have made the playoffs,” Barbin said. Considering that the Rebels finished third this season in the Manhattan III league, it’s very possible that with six more games, they could have climbed to the top two teams and secured a spot in the playoffs. 

Regardless of how they did this season, the Rebels look ahead to the next season with confidence. “There’s a great mix of scoring, rebounding, facilitating, and defensive play from that group of guys, and I think that they have huge upside next year, and can potentially make the playoffs,” Liu, who will now be going into his first year of varsity, said. 

Barbin also mirrors the confidence of the players. He looks forward to watching this group in the future and predicts a lot of success as they grow together as a unit. “If this team can grow together and all the pieces are intact, I believe we can make a deep run in the playoff next season,” Barbin said.

Overall, the new Running Rebels team shows lots of potential, and with improvements during the offseason, could be a fierce contender in next season’s playoffs.