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Valley Stream South falls in state semifinal

Valley Stream South's Murilo Pereira fights for a

Valley Stream South's Murilo Pereira fights for a rebound during a NYSPHSAA Class A boys basketball semifinal semifinal played at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Credit: Adiran Kraus

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - The turnovers were tabulated. The tears had -- mostly -- dried. One thing couldn't be wiped away, however: this Valley Stream South team's permanent place in school history.

"People didn't expect us to come up here. But they did it," coach Matt John-sen said after the Falcons' 61-36 loss to Greece Athena in a state Class A boys basketball semifinal Saturday. "We were a seventh seed in our county tournament. A No. 7 seed doesn't go to the Final Four."

But the Falcons weren't an ordinary No. 7 seed and this wasn't an ordinary season. This team will be remembered for its journey, not its final game. It was the first time Valley Stream South earned a trip to Glens Falls.

"It was a dream for us. We rode on the bus upstate. We stayed in the team hotel. This team will always be the first one that did that. We've proven that we belong on this level," Johnsen said.

And for one half, Valley Stream South (18-5) proved it could hang with a team that had more height, more depth and more scoring power. Greece Athena (24-0) forced 13 first-half turnovers but led only 28-23, mainly because 6-7 junior Hall Elisias was a force inside, scoring 11 of his 15 points.

Elisias also grabbed 12 rebounds, but his double-double wasn't enough to keep Valley Stream South in the game in the second half.

The turnover trend continued as Greece Athena made 17 steals, forced 24 total turnovers and used an 8-0 run late in the third quarter to build a 42-29 lead. Greece Athena blew it open with a 19-7 fourth quarter and placed four players in double figures, led by Zac DiSalvo's 18 points. Its pressure defense held Valley Stream South to 30 percent shooting from the field (15-for-50) and limited high-scoring Dana King to 10 points and 4-for-24 shooting. The 5-11 King did scrap for 10 rebounds.

"We just didn't play to our potential," senior Josh Robinson said. "We were off the mark and we didn't come out aggressively in the second half."

Credit Greece Athena for making things difficult. "It was a three-quarters diamond trap and then they dropped into a man-to-man," Johnsen said of an alignment that confounded the Falcons. "They were longer and faster than we were. We made some silly passes and we dribbled too much. But that's a good team. They are undefeated for good reasons. They were balanced, they made their foul shots [20-for-26] and they played great defense."

Greece Athena stretched its lead with a 12-3 run to start the fourth quarter, with eight of those points by DiSalvo. Anthony Lamb, a 6-6 center, contributed 12 points and eight rebounds.

Though the loss stung, and Johnsen's eyes were as red as his players' eyes were afterward, this team left a legacy. "I told them that this hurts now, but when the dust settles, they'll realize what they've accomplished," Johnsen said. "Their picture and their banner will be up in the gym for their grandkids to see someday. They understand that this is history."

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