In a game that was close to the end, Elijah Newsome made six clutch foul shots consecutively in the final minute to secure a 73-72 win for Hudson Valley over North Country.
“I just needed to focus, concentrate and knock them down. They’re foul shots, and they’re free. It’s just me and the hoop,” said Newsome.
“That’s one thing he does really well for us. When he made those at the end, that was huge,” said head coach Mike Long.
Newsome’s teammates carried the scoring load for the first 39 minutes. Brendan Archer led the team with 23 points and Imre Megyeri scored 15 points on five three-point connections.
Saturday’s win is the fifth in six games for the Vikings, who have been streaky throughout the season. They started by winning eight out of nine, then lost eight of nine, and their current hot streak has brought their record to 14-10.
“The important thing for us was to win this game so we’re over .500, so that’s a sigh of relief,” said Long. Athletic Department policy is that the team’s winning percentage has to be at least .500 in order to travel for the playoffs. With only four regular season games remaining, the Vikings are guaranteed to at least make that mark.
Long feels like the team is back on track after the difficult stretch of early January. “I thought going into the Clinton game that we were … just not closing things out,” he said. The Vikings lost to Clinton 68-64 at home on Wednesday, which ended a four game winning streak of close games.
“We have to do a better job with that to go anywhere in the postseason,” said Long.
With five minutes left in Saturday’s game, the Vikings led 63-55. They struggled to inbound the ball on multiple occasions in the final minutes and the turnovers nearly cost them the game.
Newsome’s last two foul shots extended the score to 73-69 with less than ten seconds left, and a bank three at the buzzer by North Country brought the final score to a one point margin.
North Country falls to 12-11 on the season, which is important for Hudson Valley’s playoff hopes. The top eight teams make it into the regional tournament and coming into today’s game the Vikings were the eight seed and North Country was the seventh. This is the Vikings second win against the Saints.
A third team is also jockeying for one of the final spots in the regional tournament, the Columbia-Greene Twins, who are 13-11.
The Vikings will play the Twins at Columbia-Greene on Wednesday, where a win will put them in great position to make the tournament.