A-K Valley H.S. basketball notebook: Win over SSA huge boost for Valley boys

By: HSSN Staff
Wednesday, December 26, 2018 | 8:03 PM

It might count as just one win in the standings, but Valley’s 73-71 victory over Shady Side Academy on Dec. 20 seemed more monumental than that to the Vikings.

The entire bench stayed engaged throughout the fourth quarter, and those players rushed the court to mob their teammates as soon as Shady Side Academy’s desperation three-quarter-court 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.

Maybe it was just happiness at ending a two-game losing streak and remaining undefeated in Section 3-3A. Maybe it was relief after holding off Shady Side’s fourth-quarter comeback. Maybe it was the thrill of overcoming adversity to get an important win.

Or maybe it was all that and more.

“I feel like we’ve got to continue to build our chemistry more because that’s the most important thing about a basketball team,” said senior Nyjewel Carter, who scored a game-high 28 points and hit eight 3-pointers. “And we’ve got to just stick together because at the end of the day, we’ve got each other.”

Valley (2-4, 2-0) dealt with foul trouble throughout, as four of five starters — everyone but Carter — picked up three fouls in the first half. Three starters fouled out.

But Carter’s hot shooting and important contributions from reserves like senior Isiah Mangol (10 points) and little-used bench players Ben Aftanas and Jalil Johnson kept the Vikings ahead even as Shady Side Academy cut a 13-point deficit to one possession in the fourth quarter.

“We speak frequently about us being a family, and sometimes some guys that aren’t always called upon are brought out on the floor, and, boy, what a nice night for them,” coach Mark Faulx said. “They’ve got to be happy, and we’re all very proud of them.”

Chapel thrill

The Fox Chapel girls basketball team won just two section games a season ago and just nine contests overall, but the Foxes are flashing an improved game.

Spurred on by a balanced lineup, Fox Chapel (5-2, 2-1) already matched its section victory total from last season and hopes to make a push for a playoff berth.

Although the Foxes have four seniors, their underclassmen are shouldering a good amount of the load. Juniors Claire Fenton and Gabby Guerrieri and sophomores Domenica Delaney and Ellie Schwartzman join senior reserve Jess Paper among the team’s scoring leaders. Senior Megan Friday also is a consistent scorer and rebounder, and senior Grace Ritter and sophomore Marissa Ritter have played key minutes off the bench.

Guerrieri missed the team’s first four games with an injury but returned for a 56-53 win over Butler, scoring 17 points and getting several steals.

“I think we have a pretty good team when they play together,” coach Jennifer O’Shea said.

Fox Chapel’s lone Section 1-6A loss came to No. 1 North Allegheny in a game where the Foxes were competitive deep into the second half, a game O’Shea said gave the team confidence. The Foxes’ second defeat came by two points Saturday against Baldwin, when they were hurt by early turnovers but had a chance to win in the final seconds.

“We definitely want to get back on track,” said O’Shea, whose team plays Avonworth on Thursday at Shady Side Academy’s holiday tournament. “We’re really trying to work on our defense. I think we’re giving up too many points per game. We spent a lot of time watching film, and I think it’s all correctable errors, just tiny things that make a big difference. We’re trying to put an emphasis on details.”

Holiday hoops

Local basketball teams will play in holiday tournaments over the next few days, with several of them taking place in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Apollo-Ridge will host boys and girls tournaments Thursday and Friday, with the Apollo-Ridge, Leechburg and Riverview boys and the Apollo-Ridge, Highlands and Leechburg girls competing. St. Joseph will host a boy and girl tournaments Friday and Saturday. The Springdale and St. Joseph boys will compete, as will the Deer Lakes, Riverview and St. Joseph girls.

Deer Lakes, Freeport and Highlands will host boys-only tournaments Thursday and Friday. Burrell and Valley are in the field at Highlands’ tournament along with the host Golden Rams, and Kiski Area and Knoch will join Freeport in the Yellowjackets’ tournament.

Valley is hosting a girls-only tournament Thursday and Friday, with Springdale also in the field.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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