Alex Vollbrecht with his parents, Andre and Eva, before the game against Harrison.
RHS BOYS’ BASKETBALL
Garnets’ Spirits High Despite Loss to Harrison
BY LEIF SKODNICK
Most seasons, Senior Night is a season finale, a farewell that starters and role players look forward to, as well as an opportunity to honor their parents and families with a hug and a rose and, hopefully, a win.
But this isn’t most seasons.
And so, Rye High’s Boys’ Basketball team opened their home schedule in the abbreviated 2020-21 season with Senior Night against their archrival, Harrison, on February 23, before their parents and only those personnel necessary for the game to be played. Despite suffering a 46-40 loss that cut their record to 1-2, the Garnets were grateful – for the evening, for the opportunity to honor and be honored, for another chance to play basketball in the gym on Parsons Street.
Christian Panagos and Andrew Carroll led the Garnets with 12 points each, with Carroll going 4-for-6 from three-point range. L.J. Tummings and Sam Ptashnik paced Harrison with 14 points apiece.
“This is what we fought for – all the coaches, all the officials, all the athletic directors – to give these seniors an opportunity to play on their night,” said Garnets’ head coach John Aguilar. “Just to have the opportunity to get out here and support them and celebrate them was great, and we appreciate that.”
Last season, just days after a 74-55 win against Poughkeepsie gave Rye its first Section 1 title since 1989, the team was set to face Johnson City in a state playoff game when all winter sports seasons were truncated by the NYSPHSAA due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
And so last year’s seniors never finished their season, and whether this year’s seniors would get a winter season was up in the air until February 1, when it was announced that high-risk sports including basketball, ice hockey, and wrestling could resume.
“We worked for this moment, to finally get a senior night,” said Rye senior guard Aidan Zaicek. “We thought we weren’t going to have it. I was just happy to be out there with my boys. It was really fun.”
The Garnets spent the long summer working out at home and occasionally shooting outdoors.
“I can’t tell you how important sports has been to our son in terms of motivating him and keeping him engaged. It really means the world to him,” said Eva Vollbrecht, mother of Rye senior Alex Vollbrecht.
“They’re all great kids, great in the classroom and leaders in the community,” Coach Aguilar said of Zaicek and his fellow seniors, Vollbrecht, Panagos, and Johnny Foresman. “Christian’s worked so hard on his body and gotten stronger. Alex is a three-year varsity player and our only returning starter from last year’s team. Johnny is going to Vanderbilt, a true leader and captain and one of the nicest kids I’ve ever coached. Aidan, I’ve known him since middle school and he’s always great with his teammates and has a terrific jump shot.”
When the team finally got back together in February, practice meant everyone masking up and wearing gloves, each player having their own basketball, and no contact.
“It wasn’t basketball like I’ve ever coached before, but just to get the kids out of the house and on the floor, it was worthwhile,” Aguilar said.
It’s still not going to be basketball like the old days, not for a while, at least. But the Garnets are back on the court.