The frequency of the phrase made it seem like Hart boys basketball had just survived a fishing expedition in a hurricane.
“Weather the storm,” senior Ben Kaufman said of the Indians’ mindset in a rollicking, back-and-forth 64-57 win over visiting Valencia High on Tuesday night.
Hart’s Renz Brual echoed the phrase. Coach Tom Kelly preached it in pregame.
Really, the motto speaks for the Indians’ start to Foothill League play. They lost two of their first three games and rebounded to knock off then-unbeaten Golden Valley on Friday and Valencia (11-10 overall, 3-2 in Foothill) on Tuesday, when Hart made 16-of-18 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
MORE HOOPS: West Ranch shooter breaks record in win over GV
Suddenly, five teams are 3-2 in league and the three-time defending champs are in the thick of it.
It just took time.
Outside of Kaufman, who finished with 24 points, and Whitten Dominguez (21 points), the Indians (14-7, 3-2) didn’t return anyone with experience in nail-biting, raucous Foothill games.
“We’ve been through everything,” Kelly said.
Home was a fortress for Hart in league last season. The Indians won five home games by an average of 19 points on the way to a 10-0 finish.
This year, they lost by one at home in the opener and had to fend off energetic Valencia runs Tuesday.
Kaufman proved to be the run-stopper.
After halftime, he scored 20 points on 5-of-6 shooting (8-of-8 from the line) and knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:30 left in the fourth to give the Indians an eight-point lead.
Valencia climbed within three with 13 seconds left, but Kaufman made four more free throws to seal the win.
What Kaufman was to the second half, Brual was to the second quarter. The senior scored the first eight points of the frame to propel Hart to a 19-14 lead.
But Valencia answered with a 10-0 run over the next 2:30 and led 30-27 at half.
Hart outscored the Vikings 15-9 in the third and led by as many as eight in the fourth. But Valencia never cowered.
“We battled,” said Valencia coach Chad Phillips. “How can anyone say we didn’t battle?”
Dexter Akanno led the Vikings with 19 points. Teammate Jayden Trower had five blocks and a dunk in the first quarter, but he picked up his second foul late in the frame and missed all of the second quarter and most of the third due to foul trouble.
Hart made 29-of-33 free throws overall. Valencia made 8-of-11.