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Valley Stream Central High School

Our Take - Boys

Eagles need some time to jell

A booming number of hopefuls took part in tryouts for Valley Stream Central’s basketball program this winter. New varsity head coach Tim O’Hagan said 220 kids over six grade levels had their skills on display and there’s a combined 33 (18 on JV) on the high school teams.

“I was blown away by the interest and it’s an outstanding group of kids,” O’Hagan said. “It’s taking a little while to get up to speed. We took some lumps in a scrimmage against Manhasset but we played better our next time out.

“I think we’ll start to get moving around the middle of January and make a push for the playoffs,” he added. “Baldwin is Baldwin, but from what I hear the rest of the conference is going to be up for grabs.”

Coming off a highly successful season that saw them win 7 of 8 games, the Eagles are back in Class AA following a handful of campaigns in Class A. They’ll face Baldwin, East Meadow, Herricks, Hicksville, Plainview and Westbury twice apiece.

“The guys want to win and they want to work,” O’Hagan said.

Senior guard Malik Moore is the go-to on offense, O’Hagan said, after averaging 6.5 points per game. He’s an athletic slasher who can also score from outside.

O’Hagan said he’s impressed by the talents of sophomore wing Saige Frisco, a tremendous shooter and more. Senior Jayden Vera is another guard but with good size and a post-up game. Senior Jasiah Rodway is lightning-quick at the point and will need to distribute and defend.

Senior center Daniel Penubothula is Central’s X-factor. He’s 6-foot-7 and a major presence in the paint. He’s in the midst of recovering from a knee injury. Senior forward Christian Akaeze has varsity experience and does a lot of things not found in a boxscore, O’Hagan said. 

Our Take - Girls

Eagles are a work in progress

Numbers are an issue for Central’s girls’ program and head coach Malyssa Thorngren expects to maintain a varsity roster of 10 — up from 7 last winter — “unless someone progresses and warrants a call-up,” she said.

The Eagles capped an otherwise difficult Covid-shortened season with their only victory over New Hyde Park but return only two participants from that game roster — sophomore Faizat Shekoni who had 8 points and junior Danica Pryce who had 3.

“We’re hurting for experience and numbers, and the offseason was tough because we weren’t able to hold our usual clinics,” Thorngren said. “It’s going to be interesting going back to Class AA and we booked a lot of quality opponents in non-leagues.”

The Eagles will prepare for a challenging conference slate by facing the likes of South Side, Hewlett and Bethpage, as well as participating in the prestigious Freeport Tournament.

The return of senior point guard Ariana Haughton to the district is a huge plus, Thorngren said. Haughton spent two years at Christ The King and brings a great handle, court vision and defensive skills. “Ariana is a strong floor leader and the position was going to be a concern, so it’s nice to have her back,” Thorngren said.

Sophomore Alyssa Santiago comes off an All-County soccer season and is a standout athlete who hustles all over the court and drives to the rim. Pryce is another scrappy player who rebounds well for a guard and will be counted on to help lead the defense.

Senior Faizah Munawar is back on the hardwood after not playing last season and is a “great rebounder and defender in the paint,” Thorngren said, and has a nice elbow jumper. Shekoni is a returning varsity forward who saw quite a bit of playing time last winter and turned her offense up a notch down the stretch.  

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