STAMFORD, Conn. – Friday’s loss to Staples may not have been the worst thing in the world for the Westhill High School boys' basketball team.
The Vikings’ first conference setback just may have pointed out some flaws the team needs to work on before the end of the regular season.
“They have to learn from this,’’ coach Howard White said. “We had the ball with a chance to take the lead a couple of times and we made some key turnovers. We’ve got to take better care of the basketball.”
The Vikings came into the game with a 13-game winning streak in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and were the only conference’s unbeaten team in conference play. Westhill (14-2 overall, 13-1 league) still will be a high seed for the league tournament. Yet, there are issues White and the Vikings need to address.
They turned it over 12 times against the Wreckers, which is not extraordinarily high, but they came at critical times. The other pressing issue for White was his team’s lack of defensive intensity. Staples built a 14-point lead in the third quarter before Westhill got back into the game with a strong run.
“I was very disappointed in our defense in the first half,’’ White said. “We didn’t come out in the right frame of mind.”
That lack of focus could be critical for the Vikings if they hope to win the league championship, and the Vikings are clearly a league contender.
They have a splendid player in sophomore guard Jeremiah Livingston, who is averaging 15.2 points per game. He scored 17 against the Wreckers, including 12 in the second half. The key for Westhill is to develop a reliable scorer when teams try to take away Livingston.
Freshman C.J. Donaldson scored all 12 of hits points in the fourth quarter Friday, and he looks like he has a bright future. Yves Cassamajor (10.5 ppg) and Ariel DelaCruz (6.8 ppg) and junior Evan Skoparantzos (7.1) also will need to step up when necessary.
Westhill’s best weapon might be its defense. The Vikings allow 56.4 points per game, one of the fourth-lowest total in the 18-team league. In Friday’s game, Westhill clawed back with its defense eventually tying the game on two occasions in the fourth quarter.
Everyone will get a better read on Westhill in the final two weeks of the season. Its final three games are Trinity Catholic and St. Joseph, each of whom have just one league loss, and another probable playoff team, Ridgefield. How the Vikings navigate through that mine field will tell us more about whether they can win their first league championship in 24 years.
“The turnovers concern me,’’ White said. “That’s something we have to work on and correct.”