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Senior captain Cade Ensinger and the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team picked up three victories last week to move their record to 5-3 on the season. Ensinger recorded a triple-double in the Warriors’ win against North Branford on Jan. 10. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Chris Sparaco and the Warriors scored a 57-43 home win against a tough Shoreline Conference foe in East Hampton on Jan. 8. Sparaco provided 11 points and 11 rebounds in the victory. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Freshman Jeremy Arnum and the Valley boys’ basketball team earned a 52-37 road win against Hale-Ray on Jan. 6. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Valley Regional boys’ basketball squad is building up steam after picking up three victories last week. The Warriors are a senior-laden team that has high hopes for making some serious headway during the postseason, and these three recent victories have them on the right track. After recently losing three-straight games, Head Coach Kevin Woods’s club has since put together a four-game winning streak to improve to a 5-3 record on the year.
The Warriors played Shoreline Conference foes Hale-Ray, East Hampton, and North Branford last week, securing big wins against each team. Valley started the week with a 52-37 road win against a solid Hale-Ray squad on Jan. 6. Coach Woods said that his team came ready to play against the Noises.
“They’re much improved this year. They only lost to Cromwell by four points, so we knew we had our hands full coming in,” Woods said. “Defensively, we had another really good performance. Offensively, we had a decent balance, but as usual, we got it done with our defense.”
Valley got out to a 14-10 lead after the first quarter, and then piled on in the second to take a 34-21 halftime advantage. The Warriors held Hale-Ray to just three points of offense in the third quarter and cruised to the 52-37 final score.
Senior captain Gavin Grabowski led the team in scoring with 15 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Fellow senior captain Cade Ensinger supplied 12 points seven steals, five boards, and five assists. Senior John Tibbets hauled in 10 rebounds to go with seven points and freshman Jeremy Arnum added seven boards in the win. Senior captain Dylan Sparaco had five rebounds and five steals, while Macklin Miezejeski added five boards.
Coach Woods thought his team’s bench play was especially impactful against Hale-Ray.
“Macklin and Dylan Sparaco had really good energy off the bench. They played really well,” Woods said. “They gave us a spark. Mack was in there when we went on a run to take the lead. We held them and Dyaln played well offensively in the third quarter and expanded the lead even more.”
Two days later, Valley hosted East Hampton and took a 57-43 win over the Bellringers. Coach Woods believes that the Warriors and East Hampton will meet again when it comes time for postseason play, and it was good to take a punch against a tough squad and mount an important win.
“They are one of the teams we expect to be in the Shoreline and State tournaments. We fought through some adversity in that game. We were down by nine in the second quarter,” said Woods. “We really showed good composure and poise. We took a two-point lead into the half despite being down early.”
The Warriors fell behind when East Hampton outscored them 13-8 in the first quarter. Eventually that lead would increase to nine in the second, but Valley went on a run to make it 27-25 at halftime.
It was really balanced scoring this game. Neither team had much offense going in the third, and the Warriors held a 35-30 edge heading into the final frame. Valley put up 22 points in the fourth en route to the 57-43 final.
Ensinger led the team offensively with 13 points to go with eight rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and two steals. Senior captain Chris Sparaco added 11 points to go with 11 rebounds and a block, while Jake Grow had eight points, four boards, and two assists. Miezejeski had seven points, five boards, and two assists, and Tibbets added seven points and five rebounds.
Coach Woods thought the team really showed its stuff on offense, especially in the fourth quarter.
“We had some of our best offense in the fourth quarter. Everyone was moving the ball. It was fun to watch,” Woods said. “I think it was really a team effort. The bench came up big. It was a great team win. Chris had a really great game. He asserted himself in the post, and it was one of his better performances this year.”
The Warriors closed out the week with a blowout 61-40 win at home against North Branford. Valley held just a 16-15 lead after the first quarter, but then buckled down on defense in the second and led 29-19 at halftime. The Warriors ballooned the advantage to 52-33 by the end of the third en route to the 61-40 final score.
Grow led the team in scorign with 21 points to go with eight rebounds. Ensinger notched a triple double with 14 points, 10 boards, and 10 assists to go with four steals. Grabowski supplied eight points, five boards, five assists, and four steals, while Arnum had eight points and five rebounds.
Coach Woods saw more of the same from his balanced offense against the Thunderbirds, but he thought Grow and Ensinger had especially effective outings. As always though, the team’s bread and butter is its defensive identity.
“We played really well once we got to the second quarter. Jake Grow had a big game with 21 points, and Cade Ensinger had a triple-double. That was really impressive,” Coach Woods said. “We had a lot of balance again. If we keep people in 30-to-40-point range, we’re not going to lose many games.”
After this week, Coach Woods believes that the Warriors are trending in the right direction.
“I think we’re winning the games that we need to win,” said Woods. “Next week, we’re going up against Cromwell, and we’ve been hungry for a while. Hopefully, this is getting the momentum in the right place for when we play our bigger games.”
From the Sidelines
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team’s varsity roster includes senior captains Cade Ensinger, Gavin Grabowski, Chris Sparaco, and Dylan Sparaco; seniors JT Dickson, Jake Grow, Macklin Miezejieski, Brian Rankin, and John Tibbets; juniors Marcus Santamaria and Keenan Pindar; sophomores James Marsden, Simon Partyka, and Saeger Patel; and freshman Jeremy Arnum.
Head Coach Kevin Woods’s coaching staff included assistant coaches Anthony Pagano, Brad Pitman, and Lou Rolon, along with JV coach Scott Harger and freshman coach and David Bradbury.
For the rest of the season, the Warriors are playing home games against Cromwell, Portland, Old Saybrook, Haddam-Killingworth, Coginchaug, and Morgan. Valley plays road games versus Haddam-Killingworth, Westbrook, Morgan, North Branford, Cromwell, and Amistad.
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