Golden Valley boys hoops focused on the present

Golden Valley coach Larry Keys talks to his team during a timeout in the final seconds of a game at Saugus on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Maybe the nature of Golden Valley boys basketball’s 3-0 Foothill League start makes it easier for the Grizzlies not to look too far ahead.

They have, after all, won each game by three points or less to go unbeaten to this point for the second straight year.

Heck, all nine of the league’s games so far have been decided by an average of four points.

It makes sense, then, that a few days before playing the defending league champions, Golden Valley coach Larry Keys wasn’t ready to talk about avoiding 2016’s 2-5 record down the stretch.

“We have Hart, the three-time league champions, (on Friday),” Keys said after a 46-43 win at Saugus on Tuesday. “They are going to be ready. We just have to grind out possession after possession. I can’t really think in terms of what we can do, momentum wise, to carry us through the next seven. I got to get through Friday.”

The Grizzlies (9-10 overall), who won back-to-back Foothill titles in 2009 and 2010, almost didn’t make it through Tuesday. Foul trouble limited standout sophomore Richard Kawakami to less than three minutes in the second half. He scored all 16 of his points before the break.

Had it not been for another spark-plug effort off the bench from senior Tahj Thompson, Golden Valley might have been in real trouble.
Thompson, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter of a comeback win over Valencia last week, netted eight points in Tuesday’s third quarter.

That boosted the Grizzlies to a 10 point lead after three.

Then Saugus (13-5, 2-1) held Golden Valley without a point for four minutes in the fourth, cutting the lead to one twice. Golden Valley, though, pulled through, avoiding a total collapse like the one it suffered Saturday against University High of Los Angeles.

“I said, ‘Look, guys, we’ve been here before. We’ve got to learn from giving away 10-point leads throughout the year,’” Keys recalled saying Tuesday. “It got dicey there for a second. … (But) this team has resiliency. They were able to battle and battle and battle to get this win on the road. It’s a good Golden Valley win.”

On Saugus’ final possession, Keys told the Grizzlies to guard the three-point line. Still, Centurion Zach Phipps had a clean look at what would have been a score-tying trey in the closing seconds.

“With a three-point lead, even if they hit it, it’s a tie, so it’s not like we’re going to lose the game (on that play),” Keys said. “But we wanted to make sure they had to work awfully hard for it.
“They got a good look. I mean Phipps from the corner, I’m sure (coach) Bill (Bedgood) would take that in this situation every time.”

Yet, the Grizzlies prevailed and will enter their Friday matchup at home against Hart (12-7, 1-2) with a chance to get to 4-0.

Valencia boys set up showdown with Saugus

Valencia (10-9 overall, 2-1 Foothill) finds itself in a second-place tie with Saugus (13-5, 2-1 Foothill) entering Friday’s boys basketball showdown, with the Vikings looking to secure a second-consecutive road win following a 57-47 victory Tuesday at Canyon (5-14, 0-3).

“The league is such a gauntlet this year that any win is a good win, especially on the road,” said Valencia coach Chad Phillips. “Our sole focus is on Saugus. I can’t even fathom what 8-2 or 7-3 looks like right now because we have such a young team. We haven’t put together a complete game yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like when we do.”

Signal contributor Erik Boal added to this report.

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