This is a printer-friendly version of an article from

02/21/2023 08:02 AM

Valley Boys’ Hoops Reaches Playoffs Following 1-5 Start

Senior forward Sam Hutchinson finished the regular season as the leading scorer for the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team with 15 points per game, as the Warriors qualified for the postseason with a 10-10 mark following a 1-5 start. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Andrew Yermenson and the Warriors’ boys’ hoops squad went on a 9-5 stretch to finish the regular season after a 1-5 start to the campaign, and returned to the conference and state tournaments. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

From an outsider looking in on the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team and its postseason prospects through the opening six games of the campaign, one might have thought it would have been a lost cause. Yet the Warriors and their coaches know all too well what this club is made of and have proven any pessimistic prognosticators wrong.

Head Coach Kevin Woods and his Warriors sat with a very disappointing 1-5 record following the first month of action this season. With that mark at about a third of the way through a 20-game slate, lesser teams may have panicked and begun to pack it in, though Valley has shown it is not amongst that group of clubs.

From that juncture, the Warriors proved the start was the exception and not the rule for their program–going on to win eight of their following 13 games and clinch spots in both the Shoreline Conference Tournament and Division IV State Tournament. Valley finished the regular season portion of its run at 10-10 after defeating Morgan 44-41 at home on Senior Night on Feb. 14.

“We have been able to go with the flow and understand the idea that there will be adversity within a given year,” said Woods. “With any bumps, we can meet them by staying calm. The ultimate goal is to be playing well at the end of the year. We knew it was never going to be easy; there is a lot of parity in the Shoreline. There was not a game where we could not win or lose, and we saw that.”

Quite often in sports, trying times of adversity can often reveal the character of both an entire collective club and its individual pieces. Valley certainly saw that up close and personal by coming through in the clutch to squeak out several close wins that reversed its fortunes.

“We could easily have been sitting here on Senior Night with it being the final game of our season,” said Woods. “We found a way to win at Westbrook with one second left down a point. We hit free throws and made a key stop in overtime [a 50-49 win on Jan. 20]. We did not play well but found a way to win. It was the same at Hale-Ray [45-41 win on Jan. 24]; it was a low-scoring game, but they got key turnovers and stops. We were down 19 points at Morgan and clawed our way back to win that one [52-51 on Jan. 6]. We could have easily lost those games, but the guys found ways to win when it was close.”

It may have taken a bit for the Warriors to find their footing as an entire entity, yet no matter how many tough and teachable moments it took behind the scenes, they had the self-confidence to emerge better on the other side of it all.

“At 1-5, the kids knew we were better than our record. There were things out of our control that could have led to a better start,” said Woods. “We knew at the start it would be a challenge to be successful. People did not see the work that went into it in the gym and the bonding moments to improve the team chemistry and culture. We are constantly working on the little things and how to move in the right direction.”

When looking at the schematics of what has driven Valley on the hardwood, Woods detailed that the Warriors began to carry some hot hands and morphed their identity into being sharp from long range and simultaneously staying true to themselves on the defensive front.

“As coaches, we were finding team concepts that made sense to us,” Woods said. “We developed our shooters, tried different offenses, and it had gotten to a point where we became heavy on shooting threes. [Junior guard] Connor Quinn developed a three point game; [senior forward and captain] Brayden Shea can put the ball in; [senior guard] Andrew Yermenson has a great perimeter game. It was key to our success because people were thinking they could just play zone defense against us. On defense, it has been good old man-to-man defense.”

In terms of team statistics, senior forward and captain Sam Hutchinson leads the squad in scoring with 15 points a game to go along with 10 rebounds a night. Captain Yermenson maintains a mark of 11 points per night, plus captain and senior guard DiAngelo Jean-Pierre and Shea both average four assists per outing.

The Warriors have a bit of a reprieve from in-game action, with the Shoreline Conference Tournament not opening until Saturday, Feb. 25, with quarterfinal round action. Regardless of the postseason matchups, Woods and Valley will use the break to refresh their minds and recharge their bodies while previewing potential adversaries.

“The break is a huge advantage from a coaching perspective because we can go out and scout teams we may see in Shorelines and states,” Woods said. “Physically, we can rest and get back to working on fundamentals instead of game planning for another regular season game. Hopefully, we put ourselves in a position to get a favorable matchup, yet we play who we play because it will be a dogfight every night.”