An I.S 89 Cougar at the free throw line in a recent game against M.A.T. The Cougar girls’ team is undefeated.
Volume 22, Number 41 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 19 - 25, 2010
I.S. 89 Cougar teams playing strong as playoffs near
Nestled in a nook in Lower Manhattan between the Hudson River and the WestSide Highway, the I.S. 89 middle school boasts two packs of roaring Cougars.
The Cougars girls’ baskeball team, consisting of 10 fierce 12-13-year-old players, is undefeated. The boys’ team has a very strong and hard-working starting five, as well as an impressive young crew coming up from the bench. Both teams have been fighting hard this year to earn their spots in the 2010 playoffs andchampionship game.
The teams are part of the after-school program that Manhattan Youth operates onsite at I.S. 89 for 200 students, free of charge. Coach Blake Hepburn and his basketball staff, Olivia Johnson and Theron Corbin, have led the Cougars to strong victories over other great middle school teams such as Lab, M.A.T. and Baruch.
The Lady Cougars, led by 8th grade captain Alexsa Ramos and prolific scorer Talulah Gilory, is 16-0. With their two paint players — center and co-captain Sonia Bloom and power forward Anna Bernath — down low pulling down most of the boards, and a full five-prong attack (the fifth being an incredible bench of 6th, 7th and 8th graders), this team has dominated.
On the boys’ side, co-captains Ledell Robinson and Ayotunde Summers have been working with Coach Hepburn for three years, and it shows in their discipline, focus and determination. The other three starters, Noah Neacsu, Nicholas Chiu and Jayson Brebnor have also made the crowd’s mouth drop with amazing assists, 3-point shots and aggressive stampedes down the court finished with lay-ups.
The Manhattan middle-school league has become highly competitive. While teams from larger schools may have a roster of players who are tall, strong and skilled, the Cougar boys have put their heart and sweat into this season and defeated some very formidable opponents for a respectable 10-5 record.
“These boys have been working very hard this year, not only on their own individual skills, but also as a team,” said Gabi Sasson, the after-school site director. “The lessons that they learn in this season are life-long and have made them into such strong individuals.”
The Cougars have enjoyed great success in recent years, winning a championship in 2008 and coming close in last year’s final.
David Gage, founding Cougar coach and a board member of the youth group, started both the boys’ and girls’ teams in 1996 and recently remarked, “They must really be working hard and focusing on a team concept. Kudos to Coach Hepburn and the entireteam. Keep boxing out.”
The Cougars are not only getting fan support from parents, but also from the rest of the middle school and the large group of little fans from Manhattan Youth’s after-school program at P.S. 89. “This team is really fun to watch,” said one proud parent, while others chant “Let’s Go Cougars!” at the edge of their seats.The teams each have one more game to play this season. They hope to take the2010 championship this year at the end of February.