Valencia boys hoops resilient in loss to Upland

Valencia's Dexter Akanno (10) tries to put a shot but is blocked by Upland's Nicholas Bates (24) at Valencia on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

After Valencia High boys basketball’s loss to Upland on Wednesday, the postgame speech didn’t have much to do with the game.

It didn’t dwell on the 67-53 final score that put an end to the co-Foothill League champion Vikings’ season at home in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs. Or the fact that it was Valencia’s first loss in the first round of playoffs since 2004.

It focused more on how the team made a name for itself after losing two key players to graduation, on struggling in preleague and then earning a home playoff berth.

“I’m crying. I hope (my team) saw it,” said senior Kyler Motoyasu. “They can build off of this year and hopefully we set a good example for them to go farther in playoffs and win another league championship.”

The Vikings (15-12) were within reach of a lead at the end of the first half, trailing by eight points.

But Upland (17-11) pulled out all the stops in the second half, initiating relentless shooting.

Oz Stokes finished the game with 17 points (including four 3-pointers) and Bryce Parker finished with 18 for the Highlanders.

“Bryce Parker, we knew that was going to be a matchup for us,” Phillips said. “He’s just an offensive rebounding machine. We knew that we had to keep him off, but we couldn’t.”

For Valencia, Jayden Trower totaled 17 points and Dexter Akanno had 10.

Valencia’s Jayden Trower (23) reaches for a rebound along with Upland’s Bryce Parker (32) at Valencia on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The Vikings also switched up offensive schemes to garner some momentum, but according to Motoyasu, emotions started sliding downhill at halftime.

“Just the eight-point deficit got our morale down,” he said.

Capitalizing on free throw opportunities gave the team some much-needed points. The Vikings made 14 of 16 shots in the second half, which helped keep the team in the game.

“We wanted to stick to our original game plan of trying to get to the basket, try to get to the foul line,” said Phillips.

“What I’m ultimately happy with is our resilience at the end. We had the three seniors stay on the floor for the last four minutes, and they kept the game within striking distance until the very end.”

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