Valencia boys basketball coach Chad Phillips showed his team footage this week of the 2015 Foothill League finale, Hart fans and students rushing Valencia’s court in celebration.
“That’s not happening (Friday),” Phillips told the Vikings.
As it turned out, the only rush Phillips had to worry about came from Hart’s basketball team as the Indians rode Whitten Dominguez’s hot hand to within one point of the Vikings with 47 seconds to play Friday at Valencia.
Hart came no closer.
Valencia played a little defense, made a few free throws and let its fans get down on the court after a 58-51 win that gave the Vikings a share of the Foothill League title with the Indians.
“We were doubted from day one,” said Valencia’s Kyler Motoyasu. “We lost two or three games, but we came back, we beat Hart, our rivals, and now we have a league title.”
That about sums up Valencia (15-11 overall, 7-3 in Foothill), which entered league unproven, survived a treacherous five-game road swing and showed its mettle Friday even as Hart (18-8, 7-3) erased nearly all of Valencia’s 14-point lead to open the fourth quarter.
Dominguez went 3-for-3 on treys in the final frame, but CJ Finley, Motoyasu and Zach Hawkins each made two free throws in the final 30 seconds to build the one-point lead back to seven.
Motoyasu’s rebound of a Dominguez miss with 22 seconds left and his free throws at the other end sealed it.
The Valencia senior also set the tone in the first quarter when his hard drive and finish opened the scoring.
The Vikings attacked the rim and used an active, physical two-three zone to build a 22-11 lead after one frame.
“I felt like we came out with so much confidence,” Finley said. “Even before the game, we were so hyped, and we were like, ‘Let’s go.’”
Valencia might also have said, “Let’s defend.” The Vikings held Dominguez and teammate Ben Kaufman to a combined six points in the first half.
Dominguez finished with 16 points. Kaufman had 13.
Hart’s Tre Harrill scored 11 points.
“We just got off to a bad start offensively,” said Indians coach Tom Kelly. “We missed shots we normally make, and we dug a hole.”
Six Vikings scored at least six points, with Dexter Akanno leading the way with 13.
Ben Grant and Jayden Trower each scored nine points for Valencia.
All nine of Trower’s came in the first quarter, as foul trouble limited his minutes over the final three quarters.
Because Valencia and Hart are in different playoff divisions, each will carry a first-place seed into the postseason.
In 2015, Hart rattled off five straight league wins — including a 55-48 win at Valencia in the league finale — to share the title with Valencia.
The tables turned Friday.