Warriors Win State Tourney Opener Before Losing to Cromwell
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team’s 2022 season came to a conclusion when the Warriors took defeat against Cromwell in the second round of the Division IV State Tournament last week. Despite the loss, Head Coach Kevin Woods couldn’t be prouder of what his squad accomplished on the court this year.
As the No. 16 seed, Valley posted a 56-43 home win over 17th-seeded Nonnewaug in the first round of the Division IV tourney on March 7. Three days later, the Warriors hit the road to take on No. 1 seed Cromwell for a second-round contest and lost to the Panthers by a 54-43 score to finish with an overall record of 11-12 on the year.
Coach Woods said that everything came together for Valley on the offensive end of the court in its first-round victory versus Nonnewaug. The game marked the first time that the Warriors played in states since the 2019 campaign.
“Against Nonnewaug in the first round, we opened up on fire. We moved the ball well and made shots from both inside and outside,” Woods said. “It was some of the best team basketball we played offensively this season.”
Junior Sam Hutchinson led the charge for Valley versus Nonnewaug by scoring 23 of the team’s 56 points on the night. Hutchinson made 11 of his 13 field goal attempts and also tallied 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in the win.
Valley got out to a strong start by outscoring Nonnewaug 22-6 in the first quarter. It was a fairly even game the rest of the way, but the Warriors withstood Nonnewaug’s comeback bid by outscoring the opposition 13-9 during the fourth quarter to walk off the floor victorious.
“We did cool down a bit after the hot start and had to battle through some adversity with foul trouble and a tough Nonnewaug team that was able to claw back into the game. In the end, we had too much firepower and had some good defensive stops,” said Woods. “It was awesome for the boys to go out winners on their home court, especially for the seniors who played their last home game, getting the W.”
Senior captain James Marsden also had a good game for the Warriors by scoring 14 points while shooting 5-of-11 from the field. Marsden hit four of his seven 3-point attempts and also pulled down 8 rebounds to go with 3 blocks and 2 steals. Fellow senior captain Simon Partyka turned in a solid all-around performance by finishing the game with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 steals.
Junior Andrew Yermenson had 6 points with 7 boards and 3 blocks, while junior captain DiAngelo Jean-Pierre scored 3 points and dished out 5 assists. Junior Brayden Shea chipped in with 2 points for Valley Regional.
On March 10, Valley was on the road to face a top-seeded Cromwell team that entered the game with just one loss and had recently won the Shoreline Conference Tournament. The Warriors gave it their best effort, but ultimately came up on the short side of a 54-43 decision. Marsden scored 14 points to go with 5 rebounds and 3 steals in the loss.
“We battled throughout the game, but they were better than us in the third quarter,” Woods said. “There were two really good teams playing incredibly hard and clawing for every possession to count. Give Cromwell credit. They outperformed us by a couple of possessions, and that was the difference of the game.”
Coach Woods credited several of his players for their strong performances throughout the season, starting with senior captains Marsden and Partyka. Woods is looking forward to seeing juniors DiAngelo Jean-Pierre, Andrew Yermenson, and Hutchinson return to the court next season.
“James Marsden had a great night shooting versus Nonnewaug, and Simon Partyka showed his leadership on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball throughout the tournament,” said Woods. “Sam Hutchinson played his best basketball of the season during the State Tournament. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with next season. DiAngelo Jean-Pierre was an assist machine versus Nonnewaug and gave us a good scoring effort offensively versus Cromwell. Andrew Yermenson hit some big shots in both games and showed outstanding defense, which has been the most improved part of his game.”
Coach Woods felt grateful for the opportunity to play in states and have a chance to knock off the top seed in its bracket. Woods wholeheartedly appreciates the contributions of the Warriors’ senior class, which features the captains Marsden, Partyka, and Saagar Patel, along with Zach Kirla.
“I loved our effort, passion, and fight,” Woods said. “The only thing I didn’t like is that the season had to come to an end, and it was the last time I had the chance to coach Simon, James, Zach, and Saagar.”
Looking ahead to next year, Coach Woods has high expectations for the Warriors in the 2023 season. Woods’s main goal in terms of improvement is for his team to gain a little more consistency on offense.
“Next year, we will need to improve on our offensive consistency. We know we have an amazing defensive group coming back, but we lose a lot of scoring with the departing seniors,” said Woods. “It will be nice to recognize the seniors and get together one more time with our banquet in a couple of weeks, but it is very bittersweet as we lose four amazing young men from our program. My offseason expectations are that the kids invest in the weight room and play a ton of basketball.”
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team’s roster includes senior captains Simon Partyka, James Marsden, and Saagar Patel; senior Zach Kirla; junior captain DiAngelo Jean-Pierre; juniors Andrew Yermenson, Kevin King, Michael Galberth, Sam Hutchinson, and Brayden Shea; sophomores Jack Driscoll, Connor Quinn, and Maxwell Nickel; and freshman Drew Delouchry.