Rye High Boys’ Basketball
An Historic Season That Ended Before the Big Game
By Chris Urban
The 2019-2020 Rye High School Boys’ Basketball team will go down as one of the greatest teams in school history, recording a 20-4 overall record and winning the Section 1 Championship in the County Center against Poughkeepsie. The Garnets had a bye into the Class A Regional Final on a quest for the State Championship trophy.
Having the season end prematurely due to COVID-19, was hard to grapple with for the players, coaches, and parents. “It’s unfortunate to have our season end so abruptly,” said Section 1 Tournament MVP Matthew Tepedino, “especially when we finally started to gel as a unit and play to our full potential. We worked relentlessly to put ourselves in that position and we could not achieve our dream of winning a state championship. Although we are disappointed, we all understand that the virus is bigger than basketball and is ultimately out of our control.” Tepedino, a shooting guard for the Garnets, also received All-Section honors.
On March 12, head coach John Aguilar had to give his team the unfortunate news. Quinn Kelly reflects that on that day “it was devastating for us to learn that this was it for the seniors and our season was over. With all the negatives we had to take in that day, we can always look at one positive, that we ended our careers in winning fashion and on top of Section 1.”
Fittingly, Quinn’s father, Jim Kelly, held onto a 2012 article from The Rye Record which would go down as a great indication of things to come. The article, “A Grade Ahead”, described the then fourth–grade championship Rye squad consisting of now Section 1 champs Quinn, Tepedino, CJ Nemsick, Zack Rosenstadt, and Johnathan Mehrara.
“Having had a front row seat with the seniors for the last ten years,” commented Jim Kelly, “and having seen how hard they all worked to improve over that time, this team deserves to be the one that brought the Gold Ball back to Rye for the first time in 31 years. Every player, seniors and underclassmen, contributed and it was amazing to watch. As a fan, I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Despite the season ending before the big game against Johnson City, James Mackle said that, “To go out on a win as a senior is so rare and to do it the way we did, with our best game being our last and raising that gold ball at the end, it was truly something special. With this senior class especially, seeing all my friends and classmates’ hard work finally pay off, winning section championships in football, soccer, hockey, and basketball, was a feeling like no other. This year was special and although it came to an abrupt end, we went out the best way possible: as champions.”
Rafael Velasquez’ father, Elmer, said that it was “a joy to see our son and his friends achieve something they have all worked so hard for. You can say this championship was a building process for the program, the team, and the individual players. Quinn and Matthew were true to form as All Section players. But the emergence of Rafael and James, and the key roles played by Alex Vollbrecht, CJ, Zack, and Daniel Roberts, gave us a complete team defense-to-offense, starters to reserves. They were so fun to watch all season.”
Recapping the season, Coach Aguilar said, “It was disappointing to have our season cut short, but understandable given the circumstances. The thing that is difficult is not having any closure to the season. Whether we won the state title or lost in the regionals, after the game we would’ve had time to reflect on the season together and embrace one another. That piece is what is toughest for me as a coach. With that said, we won the first title in 31 years, first ever in Class A, broke a school record by winning 15 or more games for a fifth consecutive season and we can say we are the only Rye team to ever end their season with a win…that is something for our team and the community to be proud of!”