Aierstoks leads Rhinebeck after sacrifices amid COVID

RHINEBECK — Bryce Aierstok often screams on television at sporting events, his emotions tackled by the ebbs and flows of a game, resulting in outbursts of excitement or frustration. It’s usual.

This was even more the case a year ago, watching live streams of the Rhinebeck High School boys’ basketball team.

“It’s on another level when I watch people I know,” he said, “because I’m way more passionate about it than watching professional sports.”

More than rooting for the team, the eldest was essentially playing vicariously through his friends and his elder cousin, Aiden Aierstok. The hours spent staring and screaming at his computer screen were as close to competition as he could get last winter.

“I missed it a lot, but it was more difficult for him than for me,” said his father, David Aierstok. “It was difficult for me to watch the games, but I still have a long way to go in my career. As a high school student, however, he knows there is a timer at this stage of his life.

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From the frequency of phone calls and text messages Colin Reichelt received from Bryce, he said, he could tell his best friend was “dying to be back here with us.”

But there were no regrets about David and Bryce’s decision to opt out of the basketball season, leaving a rebuilding Rhinebeck team without a head coach and a budding star player.

With an immunocompromised member of their household, the risk of playing sports amid the pandemic was too great, the family agreed.

They have been in hiding for most of 2020, limiting contact even with relatives and only traveling when necessary.

The state Department of Health had classified school basketball as a “high-risk sport” because it involved potential transmission of the coronavirus. So when Section 9 started their season last February, the Aierstoks sacrificed themselves once again.

“I would do anything for my family, and I knew it was the right choice,” Bryce said. “There was no hesitation. But basketball is a passion in life, so not having it was always on my mind.”

This is why this season, and evenings like Friday, are now so dear to this family.

Rhinebeck's Bryce Aierstok stands with his parents during senior day before the Hawks boys' basketball team beat Onteora Friday in Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck is among schools in the area limiting attendance at sporting events this month amid a spike in positive COVID-19 cases, but Bryce’s mother and sister were there to celebrate senior night at the team. And his dad was on the sidelines, shouting instructions, as Bryce scored an early 15 points to keep the Hawks afloat on a poor start, before they finally retired for a blowout from Onteora.

Their senior night ceremonies were held relatively early – about halfway through the team’s schedule – to ensure it would be done while all five seniors were healthy and able to attend.

Rhinebeck's Jack Viator shoots as Onteora's Logan Holmquist tries to defend at Rhinebeck on Friday.

“It’s very gratifying,” said David Aierstok, who was only able to address the team via Zoom on his senior day last season. “Knowing how different things were a year ago, you appreciate what we have now even more, and you really love times like this.”

Although, he joked, Rhinebeck winning six of his first eight games in any season would be cause for joy.

The program had been in shambles in recent years, enduring a lengthy rebuild, but players said they were still buoyed by the belief that this season would be “the light at the end of the tunnel” with its talented core.

Bryce Aierstok, Reichelt and Richie Dentico are among the players taking advantage of breakout seasons, pushing Rhinebeck back into the conversations of top local teams, and making it seem like a playoff run is possible.

Rhinebeck's Richie Dentico shoots against Onteora Friday at Rhinebeck.

“I was away not only from basketball, but also from my friends and a lot of family,” Bryce said. “It absolutely means more to me now, I feel like we are making up for lost time.”

A vaccine and a haircut

The Aierstoks took the COVID-19 vaccine in the spring of 2021 and that, they said, was a green light for their family to return to normalcy.

Sophomore Brooke Aierstok helped lead the softball team to the Class C Division Semifinals with her father as coach.

Bryce had been training alone at home throughout the pandemic, filming and even studying filmmaking as a hobby. The preparation intensified in the spring and continued into the fall, when he worked with LMC Athletics, a Dutchess County-based basketball training program led by the former player of the NBA Tyler Lydon.

Rhinebeck's Bryce Aierstok shoots as Onteora's Irwin Walden attempts to drive the ball away Friday at Rhinebeck.

“In 10th grade, I was purely a catch-and-shoot guy,” said Bryce, a 6-foot-4 winger who is averaging 16.4 points and has become one of the best perimeter shooters in the game. county. “Now I can create my own shot from the dribble or drive to set up teammates.

His progress is particularly satisfying, David Aierstok said, as his son forfeited his junior season and then worked diligently to make up for the missed time.

Although he spent much of the second half on Friday as the scoreline became lopsided against Onteora, Bryce scored 20 points, including five 3-pointers, and grabbed 12 rebounds in the 66-36 win. . Reichelt added 17 points and Dentico had eight points and 14 rebounds.

“It was a strange experience last year,” Reichelt said of the game shorthanded and without spectators. “Not having Coach here was weird because he brings that intensity to the pitch, even if it scares us sometimes. And not having Bryce, with that firepower, was a big loss.

Rhinebeck's Colin Reichelt takes to the court Friday at Rhinebeck.

The Hawks have shown signs of progress under interim coach Eric Thomas, going 4-3 in the shortened season. They built on it.

Reichelt, a 5-foot-8 guard, said he deepened his arsenal of moves and got more creative in the paint to help compensate for his height disadvantage on the inside. He’s also an emotional leader, whose “energy and attitude” feeds into the group, Bryce said.

He went on a personal 9-0 streak in the final two minutes of the second quarter on Friday as Rhinebeck took control.

“I think we stand out individually and as a team,” said Dentico, a 6-foot-4 junior. “Since we were kids, way before COVID, we always felt like this was going to be a good year and it would be kind of a turning point for the program.”

Rhinebeck basketball head coach David Aierstok talks about the team during a timeout against Onteora Friday in Rhinebeck.

This trio is bolstered by a deep cast that includes expert defensive guard Alex Kemnitzer, as well as Sean Duke, Davin Greene, Jack Viator, Aidan Prezzano and Jalen McClennon.

With a dogged defense that puts pressure on the backyard and regularly forces turnovers, the Hawks are holding their opponents to 43.6 points per game. Unusually, they gave up 18 points to Onteora in the first quarter but bounced back to keep them scoreless in the second, quickly erasing a six-point deficit.

“I knew the group had potential because right from the start I noticed how much they loved to compete in training,” said David Aierstok. “As a coach, you say to yourself, ‘If they to want to go so hard in training, I can’t wait for them to be in the game. It was a great ‘welcome’. You can’t ask for more.

Well, maybe not him. But Reichelt asks for mules.

The eldest adopted the throwback hairstyle on a whim during the early months of the pandemic, thinking few people would see it, but he eventually fell in love with the ‘do’ and stuck with it.

The Rhinebeck senior basketball players and their parents pose for a portrait before facing Onteora on Friday in Rhinebeck.

“I’m going to college in Coastal Carolina,” he said with a smile, “so I thought I’d prepare to fit into a southern look.”

He got slammed by his teammates, but Bryce said he loved the look. Not so much for himself…unless Rhinebeck goes far in the playoffs.

The plan, he said, would be to grow out his hair and debut a mullet in the sectional finale.

Dentico has long hair and could easily turn his style into a mullet. But, he said, “No way about that! If we make it to the final, maybe. I’d think about it if we made it to the final and Bryce kept his word.

So after a year of putting the family business first, Bryce is now hoping for a backyard party.

Stephen Haynes: [email protected]; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4

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