VALHALLA, N.Y. – The North Salem girls’ basketball team was at a crossroads after suffering their worst defeat of the season—a 72-29 road loss to league rival Putnam Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

But the 6-6 Tigers would have little time to dwell on the loss. They would be on the road again just two days later to play Valhalla, a team that had beaten them twice already this season (51-41 on Dec. 7, 55-53 on Dec. 12)

With just one day off between the two games, Coach Lance DeMarzo and his staff made the most of their one practice.

Sign Up for North Salem Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“Our message was just to be hungry,” DeMarzo said.

The result was a 43-31 win. The dominant defensive performance was sparked by senior co-captain Amanda Marano, who frustrated the Vikings’ star player Shelby Sekinski all night, holding her to just 8 points through the first three quarters and 15 in the game.

“Amanda Marano played great defense on her all night, denying her the ball,” DeMarzo said. “Amanda made her work for everything.”

North Salem stymied the Valhalla offense, which scored just 1 point in the first, 7 in the second, and 10 in the third. The Tigers built up a 38-18 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“There was a lot of discussion in practice this week after the Putnam Valley loss and we got back on track tonight,” DeMarzo said. “I couldn’t ask them to play any better defensively. Every time Valhalla called a timeout, I told the girls think the score is 0-0 and keep playing hard defensively.”

North Salem’s other senior co-captains, Liz Squire (13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Julia DeSanto (9 points), led by example. DeSanto ignited her Tiger teammates with big rebounds, blocks and assists.

“Julia came up big defensively,” DeMarzo said.

The coach also commended the Wright sisters, Megan and Leah, on their defensive efforts.

DeMarzo said the Jan. 16 game against Valhalla shows what his team is capable of when their effort matches their confidence. They improved to 7-6 with the win.

“I think we should have a better record than that. But we play hard, and sometimes I think the girls are too hard on themselves,” DeMarzo said. “We got whacked on the chin a couple of times. Everything’s a learning experience. Everything has to do with confidence.”

DeMarzo, saying the defensive effort is there, also wants his team to be more consistent offensively

“We can be dangerous if we do both,” he said.

Putnam Valley (10-2) is playing as well as any team in the section, DeMarzo said, but North Salem didn’t do themselves any favors in the 43-point loss.

“They’re going to be in the [section] finals because they can play,” DeMarzo said. “I think we rushed some shots against Put Valley. The next thing you know, you’re down 12-2. Then you start forcing shots and you start overplaying. It was a good learning experience. We play them one more time (Feb. 7). We’re going to have to strap it up against them.”

An anticipated snowstorm postponed North Salem’s Jan. 18 game against Rye Neck, allowing the Tigers to enjoy an eight-day break before returning to the court at Carmel at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24.