Valencia High’s starters had earned a moment to soak it all in.
Four hard-fought quarters, leaning on gritty defense rather than silky jumpers, afforded coach Jerry Mike the luxury of subbing out his first five in the final minute of a CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA semifinal Saturday at Valencia.
Kayla Konrad, Ashlee Ane, Jade Jordan, Kenadee Honaker and Chyanne Pagkalinawan sat side-by-side, smiles on their faces, a common thought on their minds.
“We were just like, ‘We finally did it,’” Konrad said after the Vikings beat Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, 56-34, to advance to next week’s D1AA finals where they’ll take on Foothill League rival Canyon High.
The game will be Friday or Saturday. The site is yet to be determined.
So too is the final legacy of four-year varsity players Jordan, Ane, Honaker and Konrad.
The group failed to get past the quarterfinals in their first three postseason trips but earned the program’s first-ever semifinal berth on Wednesday.
“We just want to go out with a bang,” said Konrad, who played nearly the entire game Saturday and scored 24 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
Konrad has scored 20-plus points in each game of Valencia’s quietly dominant postseason.
Each of the four games has been competitive, but the Vikings (26-5) have won by an average of more than 23 points.
Saturday, the Vikings trailed by two after one quarter and led by five at halftime.
Valencia made one of its first eight three-point attempts and made just 5-of-19 in the game.
“Once our shots weren’t falling, we started attacking, just working the ball around to get everyone open,” said Honaker, who finished with nine points and a handful of steals. “When the shots aren’t falling, you have to attack.”
You also have to defend. Valencia did.
The Vikings forced 17 turnovers in the game and held the Lions (23-9) to one made field goal in the third quarter, building a 15-point lead heading to the fourth.
“We stayed focused the entire game even though our shots weren’t falling,” Konrad said. “We didn’t let that get to our head.”
Valencia played zone defense with Ane matched up on 6-foot-1 Sydney Boyer (seven points), chasing the Princeton-bound senior all over the court.
“Ashlee, I’m so lucky to have her because she can guard the point, she can guard the wing and she can bang (in the post),” Mike said. “She’s so versatile.”
Ane finished with nine points, while Jordan added six, her 3-pointer with 1:23 to play putting the Vikings up by 19.
Valencia’s starters rarely sit. But Chidinma Ikonte provided solid minutes off the bench Saturday. Her midrange jumper with six minutes left in the second quarter gave Valencia a 20-19 lead.
The Vikings never trailed again, setting up the fourth meeting of the season with Canyon.
Valencia beat Canyon by one point in the championship game of a preleague tournament in December and topped the Cowboys by two in their first Foothill League meeting on Jan. 17.
The Cowboys beat Valencia, 64-48, in the second league game to share the Foothill League title with the Vikings. The loss snapped Valencia’s 23-game winning streak in league.
Meeting No. 4 will be the first All-Santa Clarita Valley girls basketball CIF final since 2006, when Hart beat Canyon.