NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— After playing poorly down the stretch to drop in its last two games, North Salem found the spark it needed with a 68-65 home victory over Putnam Valley on Feb. 3.

“This is a statement win,” senior guard John Martabano said. “In practice we have been talking about keeping our intensity up. Putnam Valley just blew out a couple teams by 30 and 40 points. For us to be able to come together and win this game, it’s big.”

In a matchup that was close for the vast majority, it appeared the home team was pulling away when junior Ryan Donovan swished one of his five 3-pointers off a kick-out pass from junior forward Chris Alterio.

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The basket that followed an offensive rebound from Alterio handed the Tigers a 61-52 edge with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

As Putnam Valley slowly crawled back in it, it scored on a fast-break steal and layup to cut North Salem’s lead down to two with 54 seconds left.

Alterio hit one of two free throws to make the score 67-64 in North Salem’s favor after being fouled with 22 seconds left.

Martabano snagged the rebound on a missed three from Putnam Valley and was fouled with just four seconds to go.

He netted the first free-throw attempt and missed the second, but made it a two-possession game.

Alterio was whistled for a blocking foul just a second later. Putnam Valley sunk the first free-throw attempt and missed the second. The ball was loose for too long after the miss as time expired with North Salem on top of the nail-biter.

“This game teaches us to keep our heads straight and to finish out strong,” Alterio said. “We just came out looking for blood.”

North Salem, which avenged a loss to Putnam Valley earlier in the season, trailed 37-35 at halftime.

“At halftime we talked about moving the ball,” North Salem coach Henry Sassone said. “In the third quarter we did a much better job and got some good shots.”

The Tigers pieced together a masterpiece of a third quarter offensively, outscoring Putnam Valley 20-13 as the shots began to fall.

Sophomore forward Timmy Outhouse cut hard to the rim for a layup and received a pass from Alterio from the top of the key to give North Salem a 50-47 lead late in the third quarter.

“[Putnam Valley] started to come out on Ryan more in the third quarter,” Sassone said. “And we started to score a little more on the inside because they were extending their defense.”

Alterio exploded for 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Donovan heated up from deep and tallied 19 points.

“We worked well as a team and got stops on defense,” Donovan said. “Putnam Valley is a great team. We just had to stay straight and keep playing hard.”

Martabano played very well all-around to chalk up 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

Outhouse finished with six points and six rebounds. Starting point guard Miles D’Alessandro contributed five points and six assists despite foul trouble throughout the evening.

D’Alessandro was out sick for the last two games against Irvington and Brewster.

“You could see that Miles was not at 100 percent,” Sassone said. “We have been playing a man or two short each game and we finally won one. We battled back tonight.” 

North Salem lost its battle with Irvington after blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in a 45-43 road loss last Wednesday.

The Tigers only scored 16 points in the second half after only allowing 12 to the Bulldogs in the first half. 

Despite outrebounding and outshooting Irvington from the floor, North Salem committed 11 crucial turnovers in its setback.

Alterio once again paced the Tigers with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Bryan Gomez chipped in with eight points and senior Geordan Mallas scored six. Waldron racked up seven points and six rebounds.

The Tigers (12-4) travel to Martin Luther King on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 4:45 p.m. North Salem then hosts John Jay-Cross River at 7 p.m. the next day.