In a season filled with challenges, Valley boys basketball coach Mark Faulx issued one to his Vikings at halftime of Friday’s game against Shady Side Academy.
Valley responded with a huge third quarter surge and emerged with a key Section 3-3A victory, 61-56.
After a first half that included failing to finish possessions, committing 11 turnovers and having trouble navigating Shady Side’s half-court trap, the Vikings opened the third quarter with a 21-2 run.
Valley built its lead to 12 points late in the third quarter. Shady Side closed to 49-48, but the Vikings finished strong.
Valley is 5-3 in the section and 5-8 overall. The Indians fell to 6-11, 4-5 but still are alive for a 16th consecutive WPIAL playoff berth.
“We were disappointed in our execution and our effort in the first half,” Faulx said. “I challenged them, and I think they challenged one another to come out and play completely different, and they did. We made some big shots and closed it out.”
Nyjewel Carter, returning after a lengthy absence, scored 11 points in the third quarter, leading the way with a trio of 3-point baskets.
“He’s a real good shooter,” Faulx said of Carter. “If he gets a look, we want him to shoot it. After those first couple of shots in the second half, I looked at our coaches and said, ‘That’s what we needed.’ ”
Shady Side committed five turnovers and two technical fouls in the first three minutes of the third quarter, and the Vikings took advantage.
“I thought we played an excellent first half,” Indians coach David Vadnais said. “I thought we executed well and got some really good looks. We weren’t able to extend our lead, and that really hurt us. I thought some bunnies that we missed in the first and second quarter would have allowed us to go up by 15 or 16 and withstand a second-half run.”
With Valley in front 45-33 with 23 seconds left in the third quarter, Carter was on the bench with four fouls. Deonte Ross, who scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, also picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
The Indians then made their move. Jas Fuhrer canned two foul shots off a Valley turnover.
A basket by Colm O’ Connor and another O’ Connor basket off a steal by Brice Delaney cut the Valley lead to 39-48 with 3 minutes, 15 seconds to go, and Carter fouled out.
But a basket by Adisun Jackson on an offensive rebound while slipping in the key and two foul shots by Elijah Murray gave the Vikings some breathing room.
O’ Connor led the Indians with 23 points, and Mason Tomlin added 11.
David Primus, also returning to the court, had 12 points for Valley. Jackson came up with 11 rebounds.
Shady Side is tied with Burrell for the fourth and final playoff berth from the section. If the two teams end tied, Shady Side would go to the postseason because the Indians swept the Bucs.
The Indians play Tuesday at East Allegheny.
“Our season’s not lost. We have three section games left,” Vadnais said. “Our playoffs are starting. We have to win games, and we didn’t tonight so we’ve got to win on Tuesday.”
Valley senior Roman Flenory missed Friday’s game because of a sprained ankle. He said he expects to be back on the floor Tuesday when the Vikings travel to South Allegheny.
George Guido is a freelance writer.