Valley Boys’ Hoops Rose to the Challenge in 2021
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball squad had a strong showing this year with a 10-5 overall record and an appearance in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final. Sophomore guard Jeremy Arnum proved to be one of the top players in the Shoreline earning All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior forward James Marsden was a huge presence on the boards for the Warriors this year and also provided a scoring punch. Marsden earned All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior point guard Simon Partyka kept the offense clicking on all cylinders for Valley in 2021. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain guard Marcus SantaMaria provided a strong voice on and off the court this season for the Warriors. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Valley Regional boys’ basketball team turned in an outstanding season in 2021, especially considering the challenges it faced.
The Warriors’ 2019-’20 roster featured nine seniors who all played meaningful minutes, and so it would have been understandable if Valley took a step back in 2021. Instead, the Warriors mounted an overall record of 10-5, which included a trip to the Shoreline Conference Tournament final.
Valley’s regular season record of 7-4 earned the team the No. 3 seed in the Shoreline Conference.
The Warriors began the season with a 70-29 blowout home victory over North Branford on Feb. 10. All-Shoreline Conference First Team honoree sophomore guard Jeremy Arnum showed the Shoreline Conference that he would be force to reckoned with that game.
Arnum scored 22 points to go with seven rebounds, four steals, and two assists. All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention junior forward James Marsden also had a notable performance with seven points, eight boards, and two steals.
On Feb. 12, the Warriors earned a 57-48 home win against East Hampton. Arnum went off for 25 points, five points, a block, and four steals, while Marsden added 11 points, seven rebounds, and four steals. Junior point guard Simon Partyka was integral to the win as well with 14 points, three steals, and two assists.
If the Shoreline Conference was hoping the Warriors would stumble out of the gate in the first week, those two games dashed those hopes.
On Feb. 16, Valley played its first road game of the year, and it was a nail-biter. The Warriors claimed a 60-56 overtime victory over Haddam- Killingworth to extend their record to 3-0.
Arnum stuffed the stat sheet again with 21 points, five rebounds, three steals, a block, and two assists. Marsden had a less offensive game, but was huge cleaning up the glass with 13 boards, along with six points, two steals, and two assists. Junior forward Saager Patel had stepped up with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals, while Partyka went for nine points, five steals, and five assists.
On Feb. 20, the Warriors played the eventual Shoreline Conference champions Morgan in a game that would change the complexion of their season. Valley lost on the road to the Huskies by a score of 85-53, but the biggest blow came in the second quarter when Arnum was injured with a broken wrist that would sideline him for the rest of the regular season. Several players like Marsden (11 points, 11 rebounds), Patel (14 points), and Partyka (7 assists, 4 steals), tried to rally, but Morgan proved too much at that point.
Valley lost its next game at home to Cromwell by a score of 50-43 on Feb. 22. Senior captain Marcus SantaMaria picked up 15 points to go with four rebounds. Marsden hauled in another 10 boards to go with eight points, and Partyka added eight points, five steals, four boards, and three assists. Valley’s effort was valiant, but didn’t add up to a win.
The Warriors tried to find a cohesive attack without their star player, and after a couple of losses, Valley started trending in the right direction.
On Feb. 26, the Warriors claimed a 53-39 road win over Westbrook. Marsden provided 19 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, a block, and four assists. Partyka added 11 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three steals. Senior guard Kyle Montecalvo supplied 10 points and four boards. Senior guard Cam Ruel hauled in six boards, and Patel also added six boards to go with three blocks.
On March 1, Valley picked up a significant victory when Head Coach Kevin Woods earned his 200th career win in a 64-60 road contest against Portland. Partyka went off for 22 points, five boards, five assists, and five steals. Marsden supplied 12 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals, and three assists. Patel added 15 points and nine rebounds.
It seemed like Valley was starting to find a new identity without Arnum, but then took a brief stumble again.
On March 4, the Warriors dropped a 49-46 home game against Old Saybrook. Valley saw three players with double-digit scoring in Marsden (17), SantaMaria (12), and Patel (11), but without the services of Partyka that night, the offense didn’t really get going. Valley also had a bit of trouble on the boards.
On March 8, Valley lost an overtime contest at home versus Old Lyme by a score of 67-57. Marsden had a huge effort with 23 points and 18 rebounds. Patel also added 16 points, and six boards. Patryka was back in the lineup and dishing the ball with eight assists, nine points, and five steals. It would take Valley three more days to get another win.
On March 11, Valley picked up a 65-42 home win over Hale-Ray, and that was the first of three wins in a row to close out the regular season. Marsden added 17 points and seven rebounds, while Partyka had 13 points, seven assists, and three steals. Santa- Maria scored 13 points in the win.
In the final week of the regular season, the Warriors claimed two more road wins in a 57-41 victory over Coginchaug on March 15, and a 64-29 win over North Branford on March 18.
Valley’s win over the Blue Devils saw Marsden add 18 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals, while Patel had nine points, 10 boards, and two steals. SantaMaria scored 11 points to go with five rebounds, and Partyka supplied 11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
The Warriors victory over North Branford included a 12-point, 12-board double-double from Marsden, while Patel went for the 11-point, 11-rebound double-double. SantaMaria scored 12 points to go with seven rebounds.
Earning the No. 3 seed meant that Valley would receive a first-round bye in the Shoreline Conference Tournament. Another huge boon for the Warriors was that Arnum was able to suit up for the playoffs. It was an unexpected surprise, but a welcome one.
The Warriors’ first playoff game came against No. 6 seed Old Lyme, and Valley claimed a 65-56 home victory against the Wildcats on March 23. Arnum seemed anything but rusty with a 21-point effort to go along with five rebounds and five steals. Marsden continued his torrid pace with 17 points, 12 rebounds, five steals, and a block. Patryka ran the point with aplomb, notching 10 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, and five steals. SantaMaria scored eight points to go with two rebounds.
In the Shoreline semis, the Warriors played a brutal defensive slugfest against No. 2 seed Cromwell, and ultimately came out with a 38-34 road victory. No period of the game featured a double-digit score. Arnum led the Warriors in scoring with 10 points to go with six rebounds. Marsden had six points, 10 rebounds, and three steals. Partyka added nine points, five steals, three rebounds, and two assists. Patel scored nine points.
In the end, the win over Cromwell was a bit of a pyrrhic victory in that the Warriors were drained and battered heading into the Shoreline Conference final to face off with undefeated No. 1 seed Morgan on March 25. Valley lost the finals matchup by a final tally of 62-54. The Warriors normally command the inside, but the big men of the Huskies proved formidable in the paint.
Arnum provided 20 points, five steals, and three rebounds. Partyka had a standout game for Valley with 11 points, seven steals, seven assists, and three rebounds. Marsden was stifled t on the inside with only six points and three rebounds. Patel scored six points and led the team in rebounds with four. SantaMaria added six points and two assists, while sophomore guard DiAngelo Jean-Pierre supplied five points and an assist.
Looking ahead, the Warriors have many of their top contributors returning, like All-Conference nods Arnum and Marsden. Valley loses senior captains SantaMaria and Keenan Pindar along with senior big men Kyle Metz and Tommy Burch, and senior guards Montecalvo and Ruel. Still the future looks bright for Valley come next winter.