NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - North Salem took the floor at home without their high-flying guard Kevin Ryan, Friday, Feb. 8.  Missing a practice, the star guard had to sit out the first half.  Nonetheless, the Tigers didn’t let the suspension or Put Valley’s 15-2 record slow their start. 

Tied 9-9 at the 4:05 mark, the Tigers looked as though they might overcome the roster shortage when Christian Norberto found Anthony Foglia cutting to the basket. But an onslaught was on the way.

“They hit eight 3s in the first half,” Steven Herlihy said.

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The first triple came from Brandon Guerra, and the 9-7 lead turned out to be the last advantage Put Valley would surrender.  Guerra also got them out for good at 12-9, and the two 3s from Charles Gatewood and Ivan Caposito mostly followed the same double take. Put Valley worked the ball around the perimeter, the chase would leave someone open, and all North Salem could do was wait for the dagger. 

The sting returned an18-9 first-quarter lead and a welcome comfort zone. 

“The game gets easier when you hit 3s early,” said Put Valley’s Darnel Shillingford.

After some nice inside outside passing from Tim Outhouse and Herlihy, Christian Norberto’s corner 3 was begging to upset Put Valley’s flow.  But Guerra struck again off the long rebound and regained Put Valley’s 9-point lead at 21-12. Unfortunately, shooting touch wasn’t all North Salem was up against.  Foglia’s roll to the hoop was circumvented by Austin Fabiano’s quick hands and a pull-up jumper by Shillingford was among all the defense that opened up a 33-16 lead. 

“Put Valley is so athletic that they rush you and take you out of your game,” said assistant coach Chris Regan.

Regan was standing in for Coach Sassone who was serving a self-imposed one game suspension for violating a school eligibility athletic policy for one of his players. Either way, North Salem did close the half strong. Daniel McCormack swooped in on an Austin Waldron miss and sunk two free throws to get to 36-22.  Opening the third, the carryover seemed to have North Salem ready for a spark with the return of Ryan.  The junior got the outlet pass off the rebound, charged for the rim and calmly made two free throws to get within 12. 

Unfortunately, the mini run only amounted to a flicker. The shots would just not fall, and North Salem paid on the heels of Put Valley’s versatile game.  Inside layups by Guerra and TJ Brescia, expanded the lead to 40-24 and left Regan unappreciative of North Salem’s choices.  Pick your poison, he said, “They can play inside and outside.”

But the game did get dicey as Norberto went flying on the foot trick.  Norberto came up with the steal, and on the way up court, wiped out on Caposito’s trip.  The Tiger guard made one of two on the flagrant, and Ryan’s short jumper gave a glimmer again. 

The light went out quick enough, though, and once again, it was Guerra hitting the switch.  An open jumper from the corner extended the lead to 17, and stepping in for the steal, a fast break basket closed the quarter.

A 46-27 defeat was just too much and had Regan looking ahead to the sectionals.

 “We should be in the middle of the pack, and hopefully get a home game out of it,” he concluded. “It will probably be a tough first round game though.”