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Article Published February 20, 2021

Valley Suffers Setback During Emotional Week

By By Dan Fappiano

The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team played a pair of road games last week and came away from the stretch with a split of the set. The Warriors posted a 60-56 overtime victory over Haddam-Killingworth before taking an 85-53 defeat against Morgan to move to 3-1 on the season.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, the team received a tough blow when sophomore Jeremy Arnum suffered an injury versus Morgan that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.

Valley started off its week by hitting the road to face Haddam- Killingworth on Feb. 16. The Warriors were down 42-33 heading in the fourth quarter, but outscored the Cougars 18-9 in the final frame to send the game to overtime. Valley then outscored H-K by a 9-5 margin in the extra session to come away with a 60-56 victory.

“It was a very gritty performance. We hung in there. We were down the whole game. We just found a way to win,” Head Coach Kevin Woods said. “We played much better defense in the second half. We did what we needed to do.”

Woods wanted his players to understand that they had all the momentum after tying the game at the end of regulation. Entering the overtime period, Coach Woods’s message to the Warriors was for them to ride that momentum and finish off the win.

“The message at the end was that we were in the driver’s seat. H-K had outplayed us the whole game, but the momentum totally shifted,” said Woods. “I think our kids felt like they were in a good place. I just pushed their confidence. We played up the momentum, rode it, and found a way to win.”

Junior Saagar Patel scored 10 points for Valley in the victory, while senior captain Marcus SantaMaria and junior Simon Partyka had nine points apiece. The Warriors’ leading scorer was Arnum, who netted 21 points and hit four 3-pointers. Arnum only had five points entering the fourth quarter, but hit some pivotal shots late in the game to spur Valley’s comeback effort.

“H-K had a great game-plan for him. They held him, moved him away from the ball, and tried to not get him touches. They did what they had to do,” Coach Woods said. “He only had five points heading into the fourth quarter. Big-time players make big-time plays. He made them in that game.”

On Feb. 20, Valley was back on the road to face Morgan and lost the game by an 85-53 final. The Warriors trailed Morgan 40-28 at halftime and were behind 58-41 through three. The Huskies started the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run to pull away for the win.

Coach Woods said that Valley needs to improve on its defensive pressure as the team plays deeper into the season.

“We’re a pressure team. We have to work on the rotation in our pressure. We need the ABCs and the 123s, as I like to call it, in our half-court sets,” Woods said. “We just have to be better.”

While Valley lost the game, the Warriors took another big loss when Arnum suffered a wrist injury early in the second quarter and was out for the rest of the contest. After the game, Coach Woods was informed that Arnum has a broken right wrist.

Arnum may be out for the entire season, but it’s possible that he could return come playoff time. Coach Woods said that losing Arnum not only played a big factor in the loss to Morgan, but will also affect how the Warriors function as a team. Woods feels that Arnum is the top player in the Shoreline Conference and that Valley will need to switch up its game-plan without him.

“He’s the best player in the league. You just don’t replace the best player in the league. We’re going to have to change how we do things,” said Woods. “We’ll get creative. I have a lot of trust in the coaching staff and the team. Hopefully, we’re looking at the four- to six-week timeline. I’d like to see him get his shine in the playoffs. He is the best player in the league. I can’t say it enough.”

Arnum scored eight points for Valley in the game against Morgan. Patel scored 14 points, junior James Marsden had 11 points, and SantaMaria scored 7.

Coach Woods knows that it’s important for Valley to find a new identity without Arnum on the floor. Woods understands that playing games without Arnum will be challenging, but he’s hoping that the Warriors can rally together, refine their style, and then peak when it’s time to compete in the postseason.

“We have to find a new identity. We knew what our identity was with Jeremy. Without him, it’s going to be different,” Woods said. “If we can find the identity, I don’t care what the results are, win or lose. Finding out identity is going to be the most important. Wins and losses are going to be whatever. The only wins that count are in the postseason. It’s finding who we are and what we are without Jeremy.”