Pictured: James Marsden’s 3-point attempt in the closing seconds of the first half is blocked by Morgan’s Drew Nye. (Paul Augeri)

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

DEEP RIVER – The boys basketball rivalry between Valley Regional and Morgan, never dull and always played at a high pitch, delivered once again Tuesday night.

In their first meeting since Morgan beat Valley last March for the Shoreline Conference championship, the host Warriors — one of the few teams around not to have their season disrupted by COVID-19 in some way — scored 12 of the game’s final 14 points for a 59-46 victory over the shorthanded Huskies.

Valley was off for a week before the game, plenty of time to think about a three-game losing streak. The Warriors ended it in part by spreading the ball around and playing shutdown defense after Morgan pulled to within a point at 45-44 with 5:31 remaining in the game.

Senior guard Simon Partyka was the catalyst for the Warriors with a team-high 17 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. He called the matchup a “redemption game” for Valley, noting the Warriors had lost their previous three meetings with the Huskies.

“We took that to heart and we just wanted to respond hard,” he said. “We love the big games. The later it gets (in a game) the slower it gets. You see everything much better, everyone’s playing much faster and we’re all on the same page. We’ve been working so hard during the offseason, we won our summer league, and that led to this.”

Valley’s starting five was at full strength with the return of senior forward Saagar Patel. Now recovered from a preseason ankle injury, he finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, while Sam Hutchinson finished with a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds).

“The long break for Christmas and not winning a game at Xavier, that implemented a hunger in our game,” said senior Di’Angelo Jean-Pierre, who contributed 10 points and 5 assists. “We wanted to come out and win. Close games, important games, we wanted to come out and show it was our time to win.”

The Huskies, who lost their third straight to fall to 1-3, simply ran out of steam.

After Ben McDonnell’s 3-pointer made it a one-point game, two free throws from Partyka and an open 3-pointer in transition from James Marsden pushed Valley’s lead back to six at 50-44 with 3:48 left.

The teams traded empty possessions before Cooper Galdenzi, who led all scorers with 18 points despite sitting out most of the first quarter with two fouls, put back his own miss a minute later. But it would be Morgan’s last points of the game.

Partyka (6 for 5 from the line in the fourth quarter) made two free throws and Jean-Pierre drove around two defenders to put the game out of reach at 54-46 with 1:58 to go.

Seeing his team struggle in the final minutes left Morgan coach Frank Rossi longing for the day when all of his players are healthy and in game shape.

“We’re about three weeks behind schedule,” he said. “Alex Fratamico (along with Nye, a returning starter from the Shoreline title team) has had one full day of practice and he hasn’t played since December 16. We haven’t had more than 10 guys at any practice. It’s the reality of the situation. This is how we’re dealing with it. We’re doing the best we can.”

“I probably put too much on them tonight,” he added. “We’re trying to get them in game shape, and the best way to do that is keep them on the floor.”

MORE TO COME …

MORGAN (1-3)
Drew Nye 3 5-6 12, Cooper Galdenzi 6 6-6 18, Tim McComiskey 0 0-0 0, Alex Fratamico 2 3-4 7, Michael Fragola 1 0-0 2, Eddie Dwake 2 0-0 4, Ben McDonnell 1 0-0 3. Totals: 15 14-16 46.

VALLEY REGIONAL (3-3)
Di’Angelo Jean-Pierre 5 0 10, Simon Partyka 4 6 17, Andrew Yermenson 0 0 0, Kevin King 0 0 0, Sam Hutchinson 4 2 10, James Marsden 2 0 6, Saagar Patel 4 3 13 Brayden Shea 1 1 3. Totals 20 12 59.

Score By Quarters
Morgan…..6 16 15   9–46
Valley……15 10 16 18–59

3-pointers: Morgan-Nye 1, McDonnell 1; Valley-Partyka 3, Marsden 2, Patel 2.
Up next: Valley at Cromwell, Friday, 7pm; Morgan vs. H-K, Friday, 7.

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