Coming into the 2012-13 basketball season, Valley Stream North coach Fabian Jara knew his team would face a challenging non-league schedule before battling in one of the most competitive leagues in the county.
Tough competition, a lengthy playoff run by the football team, and injuries to key players added up to a slow start for the Spartans on the court.
After a 44-43 come-from-behind win at Clarke prior to the holiday break, Valley Stream North is 2-4 overall, 1-3 in Conference A-IV play. Junior Aaron Bonitto scored 23 points, dished out five assists, and had five steals to lead the Spartans.
Jara hopes things are starting to look up. “With the football season ending late in November, it’s taken a while for the guys to come together as a team,” Jara said. “It feels like we’re starting to jell. We definitely have what it takes to compete with anyone, but we haven’t been consistent. We just need to put together a complete game. We can’t be happy by playing an excellent half.”
With senior captain Anthony Martelli, a four-year varsity performer, on the shelf with an injured ankle, the Spartans fell to a pair of Class AA schools, Oceanside and Massapequa, in back-to-back contests. North hung tough for 16 minutes, but struggled mightily on the offensive end in the second half of both games.
After dropping their conference opener to a tough Seaford team, the Spartans welcomed in West Hempstead. With Martelli back in the lineup, and Bonitto having his way, North gave the undefeated Rams a scare before finishing on the short end of 70-59 decision. Bonitto had 23 points, and Martelli added 18 in the loss.
The Spartans got in the win column with 57-55 victory over Levittown Division. Bonitto had a game-high 23 points, and Curtis Mensah had 16 to lead North. Mensah’s two free throws in the closing seconds iced the game for the Spartans.
Jara believes Bonitto, who is averaging a team-high 18 points per game, is developing into an elite player. “Aaron is very athletic and has a tremendous work ethic,” Jara said. “He has a knack for taking it to the hole and finishing, and creates his own shots from the perimeter. If he keeps working hard and gets stronger on defense, he could be one of the top players in the county.”
In the victory over Clarke, the Spartans trailed for much of the game and entered the final eight minutes facing a five-point deficit. A steal and lay up by Martelli with just 35 seconds remaining gave North the victory. Martelli finished with nine points, five boards, and four assists.
Jara hopes the offensive output will improve. “We’re playing tough defense and staying in games, but we’re not scoring enough,” Jara said. “We need to put the ball in the basket, especially in the second half of games. Hopefully, things are starting to come together.”
North hosts Island Trees on Jan. 8 at 8 p.m.