The dictionary defines topsy-turvy as “topside down.” But in the case of the Rye Country Day Boys’ Basketball team, a better definition would be “bottom side up.”
By Mitch Silver
The dictionary defines topsy-turvy as “topside down.” But in the case of the Rye Country Day Boys’ Basketball team, a better definition would be “bottom side up.” Because the 2016 Wildcats have turned their season on its head and done what they couldn’t do for more than a month: win a basketball game. What’s more, they’ve won three in a row.
The turnaround began with a 73-71 overtime thriller against Greens Farms at home January 9. Junior guard Shams Elbardissy hit a last-second three to send the game into OT. Then freshman guard Allan Houston took over, dropping in nine points — including a perfect 6-6 from the foul line. Between them, Wildcat big men Manny Chukwu and Chris Picard had 24 rebounds and six blocks for the game.
Two days later, they traveled across the county to archrival Hackley and came away with a 52-50 victory. This time the comeback was even more amazing: Rye trailed by 15 with six minutes left in the contest when the trio of Matt Farber, Colin O’Meara, and Houston decided to clamp down on Hackley’s ballhandlers. Meanwhile, senior co-captain Chukwu was polishing off a 20-point, 16-rebound gem. And lastly, Elbardissy drained another last-minute shot from beyond the arc and the Wildcats went home happy.
The capper to The Week It All Came Together was the 42-41 nailbiter over The Masters School Friday night. Manny Chukwu had another great game, 16 points and 14 rebounds. Colin O’Meara and senior Robert Newman made critical shots, and senior co-captain Farber held everything together.
All this from a team that, immediately before the winning streak, had lost six straight by an average margin of 20 points a game! In fact, two days before the Greens Farms victory, Rye Country Day suffered a devastating 48-point trouncing at the hands of St. Luke’s.
Back in December, first-year coach Steve Gage was saying, “We need a chemistry infusion. We have get back on defense, stop giving up the back-door cuts…we have to play with heart, which we’re not doing right now.”
So, what accounts for the dramatic change in fortunes?
“We are beginning to find an identity and a rhythm,” the coach said. “Most of our kids are just learning how to help each other get better.”
He went on to laud the work of his two senior captains — Farber for his work ethic and competitiveness and Chukwu for his all-around improvement. “Manny is getting better, but the whole team really is.
“Individually, they are improving their skills. Collectively, they’re learning how to play together, learning the system both offensively and defensively. Most of all, they are competing at a higher level and that’s when you start to win the close games. We still have a ways to go and much to learn, but we’re getting there.”
The Wildcats met King School post-press time. This evening, they continue their topsy-turvy campaign when they travel to Westport for a 5:30 p.m. return meeting with Greens Farms.