Hart High shared the Foothill League boys basketball title with Valencia in 2015, the only time in the past three seasons the Indians didn’t capture the championship outright.
With Hart (18-7 overall, 7-2 Foothill) securing at least a share of its fourth consecutive crown Tuesday following a 66-55 victory over Golden Valley, only the Vikings (14-11, 6-3) have the potential to share the title with the Indians entering Friday’s matchup at Valencia.
“The next one is a big one. Not only do we want to win it outright, but we want to feel good and build momentum heading into the playoffs,” said Hart senior Ben Kaufman, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half against Golden Valley.
“This honestly feels so good because it’s about everybody coming together and how everyone just kept working. It’s hard to believe we started off 1-2 (in league), but that’s when things really began clicking for us.
“We’ve shown so much maturity. Before, it was one pass and shoot and not working deep into the shot clock. Now, instead of a good shot, we want a great shot.”
For the second time in program history, Hart has won four straight crowns, joining 1991-94. Coach Tom Kelly captured the eighth championship in his 17-year tenure and the program’s 22nd overall.
Valencia has six championships, the first in 1999 when it shared the championship with Burroughs. The Vikings also tied for the title in 2010 with Golden Valley.
Hart, which posted a 64-57 victory Jan. 24 over Valencia, enters the showdown with a six-game winning streak. The Indians are trying to go unbeaten in the second round of league play for the fourth straight year.
“We started off slow and we didn’t have the chemistry we do now, but it took us making the decision together as a team that it would be all of us, all in,” said Hart junior Whitten Dominguez, who had 23 points against Golden Valley.
“It took all of us being unselfish and once we all bought in and trusted each other, that’s been the key to our success.”
Grizzlies could be in trouble
Golden Valley opened league with three wins by a combined seven points, but has since lost five of six, with every setback by double figures, placing the Grizzlies (11-15, 4-5) in jeopardy of not making the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.
Even with a win Friday at West Ranch (13-11, 5-4), Golden Valley is guaranteed to finish with a sub-.500 overall record, resulting in the Grizzlies not being eligible to earn an at-large postseason berth.
“It’s very tough to deal with because they were all winnable games,” said Golden Valley coach Larry Keys, who led the team to a playoff appearance last year in his first season.
“We let 3-0 affect our mentality and the way we played. Instead of growing and wanting to get better every time out, we showed up like we were 3-0 and that’s how we became 4-5.”
In addition to defeating West Ranch, Golden Valley also needs help from Canyon (5-20, 0-9), which has to knock off Saugus (16-9, 5-4) in order to force a three-way tie for third.
Regardless of tiebreakers, Saugus and West Ranch would both be eligible for at-large playoff berths, but Golden Valley would need to be designated as the league’s third-place entry in order to qualify for the postseason.