Online Exclusive: Phoenix Soar to Playoffs

Stuyvesant’s girls’ basketball team, the Phoenix, was leading by more than 20 points late in the third quarter of their final regular season game against Seward Park High School on February 8. Junior and co-captain Shannon Lau dribbled the ball up the court and shoveled a quick pass to sophomore Talia Kirshenbaum. Kirshenbaum swung it back to Lau, who drove into the paint and found Kirshenbaum in the corner for an easy jump shot. Combined, the two scored 32 points.

It was plays like these that allowed Stuyvesant to pick apart the opposing team’s defense throughout the game and, in a fitting end to the season, led them to demolish Seward Park High School 49-27. Stuyvesant’s full-court press led to numerous steals and several easy baskets for them, putting the game out of reach before the fourth quarter even began. The Phoenix clinched second place in their Manhattan A-division with a record of 12-5, behind only Millennium High School, which finished 15-2.

Lau’s playmaking abilities created many opportunities for the team to score. She beat her defender several times throughout the game, leading the team to victory with 18 points and six assists. “I’m really happy we ended on a good note. Everyone played their heart out with so much hustle,” Lau said. Indeed, the team played with effort throughout the game, forcing turnovers and fighting for rebounds.

These rebounds were another factor that led to Stuyvesant’s blowout victory. 10 offensive rebounds, four apiece by sophomores Ally Archer (five points and five rebounds) and Kirshenbaum (14 points and ten rebounds), created numerous clean second-chance points.

Coach Vincent Miller believed that this game was exactly the type of win the team needed heading into the playoffs. “When we move the ball and pass the ball, we do a good job,” Miller said. “We went out on a high note—Seward Park [High School] is always a good win.”

Stuyvesant’s impressive depth was on display since senior, starter, and co-captain Tiffany Ng was out for the game. Sophomore Ruby Gary started in her place, and her tight defense forced several turnovers. Ng, the team’s three-point specialist, will be welcomed back with open arms, however, with Stuyvesant only hitting one three throughout the game. Ng leads the team with 19 threes, 10 of which have come over the last four games of the season. It will require a total team effort to go deep in the playoffs this year, and with a full roster, the pressure to achieve the team’s full potential will be on. “The question is just if we’re going to be able to step up and play to our full potential when the time comes,” Kirshenbaum said.

One aspect of play which has plagued the Phoenix the whole season is turnovers. However, this game looked promising in that regard. “In the first half, we turned the ball over a little too much. But in the second half, we turned our turnovers basically in half, and therefore we wound up winning by over 20 points,” Miller said. Limiting turnovers will be key in the playoffs, as better teams will be more equipped to capitalize on miscues.

In what has been an up-and-down season, the Stuyvesant Phoenix finished with a resounding win against a solid team. “We started off very strong; in the middle we had a couple rough games against a couple of good teams, but we also had some injuries. [Junior] Tara Greene was sick, [Archer] had a bruised elbow, [and] Gary had a sprained ankle,” Miller said. “But we’re [going into the playoffs] on a high note and a couple wins to end the season.” Having a healthy and full roster will be the key to compete.

To top off an already outstanding season, the team will be moving on as the 27th seed in the playoff bracket, facing off against Laguardia High School on February 14 at Stuyvesant. Led by captains Lau and Ng, the team is hoping to move on to the next round of the playoffs, which will take place after break. It will be a hard fought game, as Laguardia has three players averaging over nine points per game. However, the game is within reach for the Phoenix, as long as they have “confidence, hustle and communication on the court,” Kirshenbaum said. With the full roster expecting to suit up and play, Stuyvesant is a dangerous team that has the ability to go deep into the playoffs.