After missing the playoffs by one game last season, the Valley Stream North boys’ basketball team is now faced with another daunting challenge this season as it continues its quest for a postseason berth.
Leading scorer C.J. Parris is out for approximately 2-4 more weeks after injuring his ankle early in the Spartans’ game against Roosevelt on Dec. 22. The senior had already scored five points in the first four minutes of the contest before rolling the ankle as he came down with a rebound.
Parris emerged as one of the top scorers in Nassau County after averaging 23.8 points last season, which was more than double his sophomore campaign (11.4.) He was scoring at about an 18-point clip in his first six-plus games this season.
North was already missing three starters against Roosevelt that day and eventually fell 37-36 on a last-second basket. They rebounded to win at Lynbrook 59-57 on Godwin Eyiuche’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 11 seconds left on Jan. 6, but lost the next two games against North Shore and Bethpage to fall to 3-2 in Conference A4 and 4-6 overall.
The Spartans are still among the top four in the conference that would qualify for the playoffs, and now it’s up to the underclassmen to help keep the team tread water until Parris’ return.
“Everything that happens creates an opportunity [and] this is an opportunity for these younger kids,” head coach Dan Achatz said. “They’re not relying on somebody who’s older and one of the top scorers in Nassau County. It’s a challenge they have to step up to.”
Some are starting to answer the challenge. Eyiuche, a sophomore, is averaging almost 11 points a game and his trey against Lynbrook gave him his lone 20-point effort of the season. Junior Luke Sibblies has nine double-digit point games for a 12.7 average, including 23 versus the Owls.
“The biggest thing is that they always relied on somebody else,” Achatz said. “Luke and Godwin put up over 20 points and then they follow up the next game where Luke only had 12 and Godwin had seven. We’re not going to win ballgames like that. They have to learn that we have to rely on them and be consistent game in and game out.”
Ironically, sophomore Giovanni Grey had the best game of any Spartans this season with 26 points against North Shore on Jan. 8, his only double-digit performance of the campaign. Achatz is also hoping that 6-foot-2 senior center Anthony Troiano can add depth on both ends of the floor as well.
The short-term schedule is favorable for the Spartans with four of the next five games (after press time) coming against teams below them in the standings, with the exception of first-place Wantagh this Saturday.
“Teams took advantage of us without C.J. and they know if he comes back, we’re going to be a different team,” Achatz said. “We’re playing well without him [and] I think we can be a scary team once he comes back.”