A dramatic win at Mineola last Saturday propelled Valley Stream South into position for a playoff run heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
The Lady Falcons picked up a pivotal 47-46 overtime win on a jumper from Hailey Roberts with 17 seconds remaining to cap off a 17-point day by the freshman point guard. The road victory puts South at 4-3 in Conference A-IV with four league games remaining starting with longtime county power North Shore this Friday. A .500 or better league record would punch South’s ticket to the Class A playoffs for a second straight season.
“The conference overall is better than in past years,” South head coach Mike O’Brien said. “If we continue to win the games we are supposed to win we should be in the playoffs.”
The Lady Falcons are set up to reach the postseason thanks largely to the play of Chibugo Obichere, who is averaging 16 points a game. The returning All-County player was clutch in Saturday’s Mineola win tying the game to force overtime on a layup with 9.3 seconds remaining in regulation. She finished the day with 12 points and 19 rebounds.
“She is our go-to player,” O’Brien said of Obichere. “She is probably the most athletic girl in the county.”
O’Brien is impressed with how Roberts has taken control of the offense as just a freshman after starting on varsity last year as an eighth-grader. The 5-10 Roberts is bigger than most point guards and has versatility to play in in all areas of the court.
“She can play any position,” O’Brien said of Roberts. “She is a coach’s dream.”
South’s offense has also been driven by the improved play of sophomore Erica Sarpong, who has emerged as a starter after shining on junior varsity as a freshman. Sarpong is averaging seven points per game and tallied a season-high 14 in a commanding 44-20 win at Friends Academy on Jan. 16.
“She has exceeded expectations,” O’Brien said of Sarpong. “She has been a big part of our offense.”
South’s overall record of 9-4 has also been sparked by strong team defense with the Lady Falcons holding opponents to under 40 points in nine games. O’Brien credits seniors Janeze Francis and Caitlyn Lopeck with setting the tone each game for a sharp focus on the defensive end of the floor.
“I’ve had coaches tell me we are the most physical and gutsiest defensive team they have played,” O’Brien said. “As a coach you can’t ask for a bigger complement than that.”
South next battles unbeaten North Shore on the road Friday evening before returning home Tuesday night to take on West Hempstead at 7:30 p.m.
After road games with Clarke and West Hempstead, the Lady Falcons close the regular season on their home floor Feb. 5 against Friends at 6:30 p.m. O’Brien said the team has gelled on and off the court and the bonding will be crucial for its late season charge.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better as far as team chemistry,” he said. “There is a natural camaraderie.”