BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — On a disappointing day, Jacob Valeus gave the Pleasantville High School boys basketball team a reason to be hopeful about the rest of the season.
Valeus scored 27 points as Pleasantville lost to undefeated Elizabeth 71-57 in a Shoot Down Cancer Classic game at St. Augustine Prep on Saturday afternoon.
Valeus, a 6-foot-4 senior, figured to be one of Pleasantville’s leading scorers this season, but he was troubled by a groin injury and struggled in early games.
Saturday’s performance was his best of the season.
Valeus sank 8 of 10 shots, including 4 of 5 3-pointers.
“I just wanted to come in and play hard,” Valeus said, “I’ve been in a little slump lately, so I just wanted to come out and play aggressive. My shot started falling.”
D.J. Watkins and Jordan Price each scored 26 for Elizabeth (10-0).
Senior guard Jalen Freeman added 17 for Pleasantville (8-4). Elizabeth led 14-7 after the first quarter.
“Their physicality is something we don’t see (in the Cape-Atlantic League),” Pleasantville coach Butch Warner said. “We adjusted toward the end of the game, but we had to fight so hard to get back in it, it kind of wore us down.”
The Classic concludes Sunday and features several of South Jersey’s top teams. Former St. Augustine Prep assistant coach Dave Catalana and his wife, Beth, run the event to benefit the Shoot Down Cancer Foundation, which raises funds for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The Catalanas created the foundation because their son Garrett was diagnosed with cancer in 1995. He is now 24, a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and a huge 76ers fan. Garrett works in the Philadelphia Union’s finance department as the treasury coordinator.
Pleasantville is ranked No. 10 in The Press Elite 11. Elizabeth, under first-year coach Phil Colicchio, is a burgeoning state power. Colicchio took over Elizabeth after making Linden a perennial state power.
“This was a game that really had me nervous,” Colicchio said. “They’re a very good basketball team. They can shoot it, have good guards and are well coached.”
Elizabeth dominated Pleasantville inside. The Minutemen scored 50 points in the lane. Elizabeth outrebounded the Greyhounds 30-17.
“We wanted to control the paint on offense and on defense,” Colicchio said. “Nowadays, everyone wants to take jump shots. We didn’t take too many jump shots after the first quarter. We settled down and followed our game plan.”
Elizabeth led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter. The Greyhounds never stopped hustling and cut the lead to 10 with 3 minutes left in the game.
But Pleasantville could get no closer.
The Greyhounds hope to contend for Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group II titles.
Saturday’s game will help prepare them for those tournaments. Just as important for the Greyhounds was seeing Valeus play well.
“Earlier in the season, I wasn’t playing well,” he said. “I wasn’t playing hard. I wasn’t getting rebounds. Today, I got my confidence back.”
Elizabeth;14 13 25 19—71
Pleasantville;7 12 14 24—57
EZ — Kelly 3, West 8, Watkins 26, Jordan 26, Shanunu 8
PV — Freeman 17, Valeus 27, Jones 2, Crawford 1, E. Jones 4, Rosado 6