It didn’t surprise anyone watching the final seconds unfold Tuesday at Canyon High that Valencia senior Kayla Konrad got the ball with the game on the line in the Foothill League girls basketball first-place showdown.
What made Konrad’s length-of-the-court driving layup with 0.9 seconds remaining even more impressive was that Valencia was out of timeouts, forcing Ashlee Ane, Chyanne Pagkalinawan and Konrad to strategize on the court while Talia Taufaasau was shooting free throws for Canyon.
After Taufaasau made the tying free throw with 6.9 seconds left, Konrad inbounded the ball to Ane, who immediately passed it back and allowed Konrad to dribble through Canyon’s defense and bank in a left-handed layup for a 47-45 victory.
“I had 100 percent trust in Kayla that she was going to make the last shot. We all did,” said Pagkalinawan, who had 12 points, all in the first three quarters.
“Ashlee and I knew we had to find a way to get the ball in Kayla’s hands, so we were kind of surprised they let her get it back. We knew we didn’t have any timeouts left, so we had to come up with a game plan by ourselves and use our basketball IQ to figure it out.”
Kenadee Honaker, who hit a clutch 3-pointer with 2:05 left to halt an 11-point Canyon run, simplified Valencia’s approach even more.
“Getting the ball to Kayla is never a bad plan,” Honaker said. “We’ve been in those situations before, so we know what it takes to win. I’m just glad Kayla made the shot and it worked out perfect for us in the end.”
Valencia (16-4 overall, 3-0 in Foothill) improved to 4-0 this season in games decided by five points or less, including a 49-47 overtime victory Nov. 23 over Alemany, with Konrad also hitting the winning shot.
Konrad’s latest last-second heroics capped a 21-point, eight-rebound, five-assist, four-steal performance and lifted the Vikings to their fifth consecutive win over Canyon (11-8, 2-1), which dropped to 0-4 this season in games decided by five points or less.
“Canyon is a great team, and it’s always a great atmosphere at their place, so I’m just thankful we came out with the win,” Konrad said. “We’ve all played against each other for so long, so both teams know what the other one is doing. We know that one play can end up making the difference.”
Valencia, which extended its league winning streak to 19, cleared a huge hurdle in pursuit of back-to-back Foothill titles. Jerry Mike, in his 18th season coaching the Vikings, won for only the fourth time in his past 11 trips to Canyon after starting his career with seven consecutive road wins against the Cowboys.
“I know more than anybody how tough it is to win here, so this is about as good as it gets for our season so far,” Mike said. “I had to temper my celebration because I know we still have to play them again.”
Canyon, which also lost 46-45 on Dec. 10 to the Vikings in the Magnolia Park Optimist Club tournament final at Burroughs High, plays Feb. 3 at Valencia. The Cowboys are the last league opponent to defeat Valencia, back on Jan. 23, 2015.
“We have to put more pressure on ourselves and push each other more in practice, because the kind of pressure Valencia gives off, we don’t see that from the rest of the league,” said Canyon junior forward Rachel Bowers, who had 26 points and 16 rebounds.
“We played rushed in the last couple of minutes, and we can’t let that happen the next time.”