By Mike Zummo
The one thing that was obvious when the Valley Central girls’ basketball took the court to open its COVID-19 shortened season on Thursday afternoon; the last time the Vikings were on the court was in a packed Mount Saint Mary College gymnasium playing for the Section 9 Class AA championship. They returned to action in an empty gymnasium at Valley Central High School, where they suffered a 38-27 loss to the Warwick Wildcats.
“It was a lot different,” first-year coach Bill Michella said.
The Vikings struggled offensively, only breaking double-digits in the second quarter, but were still able to keep the Wildcats from getting too far out in front of them, mostly on the strength of their defense. Michella had Grace Palczewski on Warwick’s best shooters, often by herself.
“We had her on their best shooters in a no-help defense, and she did an incredible job,” Michella said. “When we took her off that, she did an incredible job on help-defense.”
Still, the Wildcats were able to knock down five 3-pointers. Kristen Desrats hit two on her way to a game-high 12 points, while Megan Desrats hit two and finished with 10 points.
Shaina Cooney led Valley Central with nine points and Deanna Murdock scored seven points in what turned into an offensive struggle for the Vikings.
“We were getting open shots, but they just weren’t falling,” Michella said. “Offensively, we need to take care of the ball better.
The game was being played eight days after the Vikings got onto the court for their first practice. They would have started Feb. 1 when authorization for high-risk sports began, but two snow days delayed their first practice to Feb. 3.
Thursday night was the first game, and first time they saw another team, and in the truncated season didn’t have time for scrimmages.
“I think we just have to work harder on defense,” Michella said. “We have to communicate better and fight through the screens.”
The Vikings got on the board first nearly 3 minutes into the game on a layup by Cooney, but Kristen Desrats tied the game with a basket and Megan Desrats gave Warwick the lead with 4:16 left in the first. The Wildcats continued to build a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Vikings had their strongest quarter in the second.
Cooney converted a three-point play to get the scoring started in the quarter, but Lindsay Evans drove to the basket to open a 15-8 lead.
Palczewski hit 1 of 2 free throws and Maddie Feller and Murdock each hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 15-15 with 3:31 to go in the second.
Warwick’s Kristen Desrats broke the tie with 3-pointer and a basket with 15 seconds to go, Cooney’s basket pulled the Vikings to within a point.
But the third quarter belonged to the Wildcats, who outscored the Vikings 14-3 in the third quarter to take command in a game that started a short season that will cram as many games in as possible in less than three weeks.
“I’m looking for them to really enjoy themselves and have fun on the court, and to set an example for the younger players on the bench,” Michella said.
Valley Central 45, Pine Bush 30
Shaina Cooney had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, leading the Vikings to a win over Pine Bush.
Maddie Feller added nine points and seven assists for the Vikings and Grace Palczewski added eight points. Mackenzie Delmonico scored her first varsity point with a deep three pointer.
Jahesa Stokes led Pine Bush with 8 points and London Williams had seven.