With 55 seconds remaining in its game against Saugus High, Valencia High’s Kyler Motoyasu absorbed a steal and got the ball to Jayden Trower for two points and an eight-point lead.
Ten seconds later, Motoyasu wrangled a key defensive rebound.
The common themes of stealthy defense and Jayden Trower pulled the Vikings out of a tight first half and into a 57-51 win Tuesday night at home, positioning Valencia to share the Foothill League title if they can beat Hart on Friday.
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“The beginning of the season, we didn’t really finish out games well,” Motoyasu said. “But we worked on it in practice, we needed to hold the ball and then get stops on the other end.”
Trower finished the night with 22 points. Saugus coach Bill Bedgood was quick to acknowledge his impact after the game.
“Tonight the difference was Trower,” he said. “Trower was an absolute beast on the boards, he was changing our shots in the paint. I just thought we didn’t match up well with him.”
Saugus’ Anthony McIntyre (12 points) and Zach Phipps (13 points) pushed their way to the inside for shots. The Vikings (14-11 overall, 6-3 in Foothill) switched their defensive focus after trailing 30-29 at halftime to keeping the opponent to the outside.
“I honestly believed we came out and we knew we had to tighten up the key a little bit because McIntyre was killing us inside and we wanted to make them kill us from outside,” said Valencia coach Chad Phillips.
The Vikings were able to hold the Cents (16-9 overall, 5-4 in Foothill) to 10 points in the third quarter and 11 points in the fourth.
“We had some very makeable threes that didn’t go down,” said Bedgood. “If you’re not going to hit threes against a zone, teams are going to keep packing it in.”
Saugus next faces Canyon on Friday, while Valencia will take on Hart.
“We just want to dial it in, go back to practice and get ready for Hart,” Phillips said. “We know they’re going to get ready for us and we’re just going to come out and hopefully it’s a battle.”