Valley boys basketball has many reasons for optimism

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Monday, December 3, 2018 | 10:45 PM


Valley only won one game three years ago, but since then, the Vikings have righted the ship.

They earned their first playoff victory in nine years last season and qualified for the PIAA tournament.

Looking back at how the program has progressed, the growth his players have shown as individuals and how the team has come together has made Vikings coach Mark Faulx proud.

The focus this winter is on finding ways to progress and keep the momentum rolling.

“All I can ask of my guys and myself is to keep working as hard and as smart as we can to maximize our growth as individuals and as a group,” Faulx said. “I try to not compare groups from one year to the next. I feel like that can be damaging at times. I just ask them to carry over the lessons from last year, but I want us to focus on individual and team growth. I want them to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, then adjust to get better every time we’re together.”

The Vikings return two starters — seniors Deonte Ross and Nyjewel Carter – from a team that finished 14-6 last year and 9-3 in Section 1-4A. Valley defeated South Park, 76-69, in the first round before to WPIAL runner-up Quaker Valley in the quarterfinals.

Valley opens the season Friday against Hollidaysburg at the Indiana Tip-Off Tournament.

Ross was a freshman when Valley had one win, and he’s been there for every posiive step made over the last three years.

“My first year, we would argue at times and not play as a team,” Ross said. “The second year, we started this process and, then last year, it just clicked. We’re there now. We’re working as team. We’re talking and helping each other out when we’re down. When someone is mad, we’re telling them ‘Hey, next play.’ It’s those little things that help you down the stretch.”

Ross did not play until January last season because of injury. Faulx is happy to have him in the mix from the start.

“(Ross) is a fierce competitor that’s been in a lot of battles, and he’s really developed into a good leader,” Faulx said. “I’ve really taken notice at how he’s learned how to play and transfer that knowledge onto other kids.”

Carter was a starter for the first time last year and proved to be a scoring threat from the outside. He averaged in double figures and scored more than 20 points in three consecutive games early last season.

“Nyjewel has really progressed. I have to give it to him,” Ross said. “From freshman year until now, he’s processed a lot. He’s changed his attitude and his work ethic. He’s a great shooter, a great player and a great teammate. He’s a good person to be around.”

Seniors Isiah Mangol and Roman Flenory and sophomore Elijah Murray were three key contributors off the bench last season and likely will see increased roles. The Vikings have other options, including Adisun Jackson, Thomas Albert, Jalil Johnson, Drevin Sidney, David Primus, Vaun Ross and Ben Aftanas. Faulx said he is still working out roles for everyone.

Valley drops to Class 3A and will play in Section 3 with Burrell, Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, South Allegheny, Shady Side Academy and Steel Valley. Everyone in the section made the playoffs last year except Steel Valley.

The Vikings are looking forward to making shorter trips and the competition.

“It’s a new section, but there are some familiar faces and some of them are of closer proximity, which I think will stimulate some rivalries that already existed,” Faulx said. “The shorter bus rides will probably lead to more fans following and a more exciting environment. I’m excited to play teams that are close by that we know. I think it’ll be nice.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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