“When we lose practice hard. When we win practice harder.” That’s the mantra the David A. Stein Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy Tigers players kept uttering Friday night after an impressive 65-45 win over the South Bronx Phoenix that put the squad at 8-1 this season.
With the help of head coach John Reingold, the Tigers have created an attitude that prides itself on never being satisfied; a culture that nurtures and builds great habits and disposes the bad ones.
“We are trying to go to the city championship,” said junior guard William Feldman, who poured in 24 points and was on fire from beyond the arc with six threes. “That’s our goal. I think we have the team, and we’re close enough as friends – not just as teammates – to do it.”
But before that happens, Reingold’s group knows that lofty goals require laser focus and preparation.
The players were locked in two hours before game time, going through purposeful drills that might’ve had one thinking the Tigers were playing against South Bronx Prep – who handed them their only loss of the season – and not South Bronx.
“They’re starting to see the merits of their training,” said Reingold. “In the beginning it was hard to sell it because these guys aren’t used to doing that kind of work. I give them credit, though. They really have pushed themselves to do the work, which is not easy.”
Coach wants more
Credit isn’t something that Reingold gives out easily. Despite what many might consider an impressive display against South Bronx, Reingold expects more.
“I was surprised we had 29 [points] at half,” Reingold said. “Our half-court offense was not good. We didn’t really get out in transition. We are an up-tempo kind of team and we didn’t really get much in transition at all.”
To Reingold’s point, the Tigers’ offense did stall during the latter part of the second quarter. They settled for jumpers too much, allowing South Bronx easy buckets in transition and growing its confidence going into the second half just down 29-22.
“Our guys were a little bit stubborn in the first half,” Reingold added. “They were forcing the outside shot.”
The second half, however, proved to be more in line with the team’s expectations.
“Ball movement was key,” said Feldman. “We were moving the ball. The offense was flowing. Sometimes it got a little stagnant, but once the offense started flowing, the shots started going in.”
“Second half was a little bit better,” Reingold acknowledged. “We picked up the tempo a little bit [and] got out in transition which is really our bread and butter.”
Points in the paint and rebounds were also the difference makers for the Tigers. Senior Dekorey Wright played a huge role in those areas, putting up 12 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists.
“I do whatever it takes to win,” said Wright. “I don’t care how much I score. I just play defense, rebound the ball and score when I can.”
Prior to the game, Reingold put a star next to the players who he thought have been the most impressive so far this year.
Wright wasn’t one of them.
“He’s been up and down,” Reingold said. “He’s very athletic and could get to the basket. The problem with him in the beginning of the season was that he wasn’t finishing, and now he’s starting to do that. He was a nice surprise today.”
Wright is going to have to continue to be that force both on the boards and defensively for his team if Tigers want to reach their goal of a title game. But Reingold has a much needed, shortsighted goal that keeps his kids in line.
“We need to continue to get better,” Reingold said. “As I told them, ‘If we lose we practice hard. If we win we practice harder.’”
The Tigers got that memo long ago.