By Danny Lopriore
The Valhalla boys’ basketball team moved into the final days of regular-season play with an up-and-down performance in a 58-44 loss at Irvington High School Saturday.
Looking to secure a spot in the upcoming Section 1 playoff brackets, the Vikings, now 10-8, showed signs of life after falling behind early and then fighting back from double-digit deficits throughout the game against a highly-regarded Bulldogs (16-2) squad.
“We certainly hope to be prepared for the playoffs,” Valhalla head coach Richard Clinchy said following the game. “Always first, is rebounding. We don’t have a large team. We rely on a couple of guys, so rebounding has to be better to go anyplace (in the playoffs). No doubt about it. We had maybe three or four offensive rebounds. That’s not enough against a good team like Irvington.”
Ethan Bartlett led the Vikings scoring with 15 points and Orlando Clarke added 11 points and nine rebounds. Clarke was instrumental in two comeback runs.
The Vikings struggled getting more than one shot at the basket in each possession and Irvington played tough defense and grabbed most of the stray rebounds, allowing only 15 points in the first half.
Clarke knows his team needs more consistency to make a successful playoff run.
“We’re looking to be more consistent,” the Viking senior said. “We had a bad first half, but played well at times. We played better and started inching our way back in the second half. In the playoffs, you have to be consistent and play four quarters.”
The Vikings trailed 15-3 midway through the first quarter, but pulled to within 16-12 early in the second quarter, sparked by Bartlett and Jordan Rush, who each hit a key 3-pointer. Clarke had hit two 3-pointers for the Vikings’ only points of the first quarter.
“When we first started this season, we had problems finding each other, but we’ve improved a lot at the end of the season,” Clarke said. “We have guys who can score, and we have the ability to play good defense if we work hard. Those are the keys.”
Irvington point guard Colby Martins handled the offense and had a game-high 21 points, with teammate James Rhodes adding 17. Rhodes scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help close out the game for the Bulldogs, who stretched out leads of as much as 18 points early in the fourth quarter.
Drew Drayton-Bay (four points), Nick Petrilli (five), Marco Mazza and Jordan Rush (three each) and Sean Kelly (two) also contributed to the Vikings’ scoring. Valhalla hit on eight 3-point field goals, but made just seven of its 14 shots from the free-throw line.
“We need better ball movement to be successful,” Clinchy said. “We have to be better rebounding, handling the ball and getting the ball out on the break. We couldn’t run the way we’d like to. That’s our strength.”