Hart's Whitten Dominguez (10) looks for an opening around Saugus' Adrian McIntyre (2) during a basketball game at Saugus on Jan. 27. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Hart High boys basketball coach Tom Kelly said Monday night there was no magic formula for overcoming a 1-2 start to Foothill League play and reaching the cusp of a fourth straight Foothill League title.

Hart, he said, has simply played better defense and taken care of the ball.

Now, can it take care of business?

The Indians enter tonight’s home game against Golden Valley with a chance to clinch at least a share of the 2017 league championship. Hart is 6-2, one game ahead of both Saugus and Valencia, which play each other tonight.

The winner of Saugus-Valencia will either continue to nip at Hart’s heels or share first place with the Indians heading into Friday’s finales.

As expected, Kelly said his team isn’t focused on any of that.

“We talk every day about trying to be 1-0 in every game,” he said. “We can’t worry about the one we just played or the one we’re going to play. We have to worry about the one that is right in front of us.”

The Indians dropped their Foothill opener by one to Saugus. Then, after a win over Canyon, the Indians lost again, this time to West Ranch.

Hart didn’t hit the panic button. It focused on stops instead.

“All five are (now) playing defense as one,” Kelly said.

And on sharing the ball and moving on offense.

“I think the guys are settling in,” Kelly said. “We knew there was going to be an adjustment with Luca (Robinson) and Tre (Harrill) coming in and our rotations obviously changing, guys getting adjusted to two new guys. (We were also playing with) injuries early on with Whitten (Dominguez) and Ben (Kaufman) out and then Renz (Brual) got hurt.”

Dominguez and Kaufman have returned from injury to form arguably the league’s best scoring duo, with Brual as a crucial role player.

Still, Hart will face a challenge tonight that is familiar to every Foothill team — dealing with Golden Valley’s size and athleticism.

The Grizzlies, though, are trying to find their way. After a 3-0 start to league, they’ve lost four of five, placing them in danger of missing out on one of the Foothill’s three guaranteed playoff berths.

Five teams (Hart, Saugus, Valencia, Golden Valley and West Ranch) are still in contention for those spots.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Valencia coach Chad Phillips of the final week. “It’s been a great Foothill season to date. Everyone has played their hearts out, all the teams. It’ll be last one standing.”

Foothill League standings

Hart 6-2

Saugus 5-3

Valencia 5-3

Golden Valley 4-4

West Ranch 4-4

Canyon 0-8

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Mason Nesbitt
Mason Nesbitt is The Santa Clarita Valley Signal's Sports Editor.
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