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VSS holds off West Hempstead

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After a considerably slow start to the season, West Hempstead is making things much more difficult for its Nassau Conference A-5 boys’ basketball rivals.

That was the case again last Saturday morning when the Rams gave visiting Valley Stream South all it could handle before falling, 63-58. The outcome wasn’t decided until junior Ivory Greenfield’s layup with 14 seconds remaining provided the final margin for the Falcons (9-3 overall), who closed the first half of the conference schedule with a 6-1 mark. West Hempstead dropped its seventh straight conference game and is 1-11 overall.

“We’ve played well but we still need to be more consistent and get mentally tougher,” VSS head coach Michael O’Brien said. “Not to take anything away from West Hempstead because they played great today. But we have to bring the same level of intensity against everyone because being where we are in the standings, we’ve got a bullseye on our backs.”

Both teams had a trio of double-digit scorers. South’s senior backcourt tandem of Emil Williams (game-high 21) and Nick Traill combined for 37 points, while Greenfield added 10. Williams added eight rebounds and Traill dished out eight assists.

“We pretty much follow Nick’s lead,” O’Brien said of his dynamic point guard who had a key four-point play late in the second quarter to give the Falcons a 37-32 halftime advantage. “His energy is a big part of everything we do and Emil is a tremendous complement,” he added. “They really balance each other well.”

As clutch as South’s guard play proved, West Hempstead’s frontcourt stood tall throughout. Junior Brian Pierre-Louis poured in a team-high 19 points, and senior Jorge Grant was a force with 15 points and 15 rebounds.

“We’ve made a lot of strides in the last four games and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season,” Rams head coach Ed Cosgrove said. “We just need to do a better job at protecting the ball. The outcome could’ve been different if we didn’t turn over some crucial possessions.”

Led by Pierre-Louis’ three baskets, West Hempstead scored eight of the first 10 points of the second half to lead 40-39 with 4:22 remaining in the third quarter. Williams scored six of the next eight to vault the Falcons back in front 45-41, then Pierre-Louis answered with a three-point play to get the Rams within one again.

South took a 49-46 lead into the fourth and appeared to shake free with about three minutes left when baskets by junior Chidi Obichere (nine points) and Traill put it up by eight. However, the Rams chipped away and were within 61-58 inside of a minute when the turnover bug bit.

Senior Isaiah Henriquez added 12 points for West Hempstead, which plays three of its next four at home beginning this Saturday against Friends Academy at noon. “We’ve had an opportunity to win each of these last four games,” Cosgrove said. “If we can cut down mistakes, we’ll be on the other end of these scores.”

South is also back in action this Saturday at noon with a home matchup against Seaford.