Versatile Butcher and the Vikings Run Past Pleasantville

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When the Valhalla boys’ basketball team began its 2021-22 season, head coach Richard Clinchy had a pretty good notion he could count on Basiaka Butcher to provide the Vikings with a strong defensive presence.

Valhalla’s Basiaka Butcher sails in to score with his left hand during the third quarter of the Vikings’ home win over Pleasantville.

Now Clinchy has begun to realize the kind of impact his junior forward can also make at the other end of the court.

“Well, he’s like a one-man team,” Clinchy was saying on Friday evening soon after watching Butcher erupt for 32 points in the Vikings’ 74-53 league victory over visiting Pleasantville. “His shooting this year is so much better than last year. He’s an all-around threat now.”

Butcher scored Valhalla’s first four baskets of the game on his way to 19 first-half points and supplied a pair of buckets early in the third quarter when the Vikings were starting the second half on a 10-2 spurt that stretched a 14-point halftime lead to 52-30. His three straight baskets in the first 80 seconds of the fourth quarter gave Valhalla its largest lead of the night, 65-41.

“I didn’t know how good he’d be,” conceded Clinchy. “I only saw him a little bit over the summer, so I wasn’t quite sure. He reminds me, in some ways, of Ethan Bartlett, who’s now a senior at Johns Hopkins. Like Ethan kind of had to do everything for us.”

Facing a Panther team that was playing its fourth game in as many days, Valhalla delighted the home crowd by getting on the scoreboard first when Butcher tossed in a floater from left of the lane 19 seconds after tipoff. Despite three more buckets from Butcher in the opening four minutes, all of them layups, the lead changed hands four times.

Valhalla senior center Darren DiRenzo shoots the ball in the third quarter of Friday night’s 74-53 Viking victory over the visiting Pleasantville Panthers.

A fast-break layup by Caleb Bronkema, who led the Panthers with 16 points, tied the game at 9-all with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter. But a basket by junior guard Devan Cooper then gave the Vikings a lead they never relinquished and started an 8-0 run. Still, a left-corner 3-pointer from Dermot McSpedon, followed a minute later by a Dom Matica layup, had Pleasantville within 19-17 before Butcher beat the buzzer ending the period with a left-elbow 3.

The Panthers, now 5-6 this season after their hectic week, cut a nine-point deficit to 28-22 as McSpedon drained a 3-point shot from the right corner two and a half minutes into the second quarter. Valhalla’s Julian Amoroso then made both ends of a 1-and-1 opportunity, starting an 11-3 run that included five points from Butcher — a 3-pointer from the left elbow after letting a Panther defender run by and a put-back of his own miss.

The final points of the first half also came from Butcher, on a 3-point shot with just over a minute remaining. The teams left the court with up-tempo Valhalla in front 42-28.

“You can’t see all that on film,” said Panthers head coach Bob Jordon about the unexpected offensive fireworks from Butcher. “Obviously you have to see him. But we knew he was gonna be good.”

It didn’t help Jordon and the Panthers that starting guard Daniel Picart was called for two early fouls and spent a good portion of the first half relegated to the bench.

“Very frustrating,” said Jordon. “That second call was tough for him. But you can’t leave games in the hands of the officials, either.”

Pleasantville’s Etai Numberg and Valhalla’s Michael Giuliano set their sights on a rebound during the league game between the Panthers and Vikings on Friday evening.

A basket by Picart, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half, moved P’ville within 44-30 just 45 seconds into the third quarter. But that was as close at the Panthers could manage to get. Butcher scored on a flip with his left hand to start an 8-0 surge that included a trey from Cooper. Even though the Vikings only scored two points over the final 4:20 of the period, they still held a 57-41 cushion with eight minutes to go.

The fourth quarter began with a short jumper from Viking senior center Darren DiRenzo, who finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Butcher then scored the game’s next three baskets, stretching the Valhalla lead to 24 points and assuring the Vikings of their seventh win in eight games this season.

How good this Viking team can be is a question Clinchy can’t answer yet. For now, he’s satisfied with their progress this week after a 23-day pause during which they didn’t even practice.

“I have no idea,” he said with a laugh when asked what the ceiling is for his players. “We played three games this week, so that certainly helps you, just the rhythm of it. We weren’t real good the first game. We were better the second game. Tonight was probably our best game of the week.”

Meanwhile, Jordon and his Panthers could finally look forward to a few days of rest after a grueling week that would’ve tested the endurance and fortitude of any team.

“Even though it was a 20-point loss today, we felt we did some nice things,” he said. “You know, there’s obviously things to correct, but we’ll work on it and get it done. We’re really excited because they see, take the scoreboard off the wall, that we’re playing well together and they’re having fun. So we’re excited moving forward.”

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