Valencia girls hoops looking to make good on first semi berth

Valencia's Ashlee Ane (12) looks for an opening as she goes in for a layup and Los Alamitos' Makayla Burdette (45) tries to block her shot at Valencia on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Valencia High girls basketball coach Jerry Mike basked in the afterglow of Wednesday’s quarterfinal win over Los Alamitos long enough to entertain the baby of a former player and chat with appreciative fans and parents.

Then it was back to business.

“I just can’t wait to get my hands on the tape and break it down and get focused for the next one,” Mike said after Valencia secured its first-ever semifinal berth. “That’s about all I’m thinking about. I’m just going to get some food, get the film and get ready for practice.”

The eatery of choice?

“Probably Chipotle.”

MORE: Valencia girls hoops beats Los Alamitos for first semifinal berth

That night, Mike pored over game tape of Oaks Christian — the team Valencia will host tonight at 7 p.m. in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals — for an hour and a half.

The Lions (23-8) have height. They have a standout player. They have a steady style of play that has allowed the unranked squad to run through the playoffs and win 11 straight games overall.

Valencia’s Chidinma Ikonte (3) steals the ball from Hart’s Haylyn Ngyuen (13) at half-court to get a breakaway layup during a basketball game at Valencia on Feb. 10. Katharine Lotze/Signal

“(Oaks forward) Sydney Boyer, she’s good,” Mike said. “She can go off the dribble. She’s one of the better shooters I’ve seen all year, a pure shooter. She’s 6-foot-1 and moves great.”

A key for Valencia’s zone will be to know where Boyer, a Princeton-bound senior, is at all times. During practice Friday, the Vikings (25-5) practiced calling out where “Boyer” was, whether it was in the lane or sweeping across the baseline.

“I said call her by her name or call her by her number, but call her something,” Mike said. “… We can’t lose her.”

The Vikings moved Kayla Konrad to the top of their zone in the fourth quarter Wednesday to cut off dribble penetration. It’s likely Mike will have to leave the senior down low tonight to help box out Boyer and 6-footer Liz Newman.

On the other end, it’s unclear whether the Lions will defend Konrad with a post player or a guard. Boyer, Mike said, moves well but isn’t quite as quick as Konrad.

Los Alamitos certainly struggled to keep up.

Konrad scored a game-high 28 points Wednesday. But the Vikings might have been in real trouble by the third quarter — when Los Alamitos momentarily tied the score — had it not been for the hot shooting of Jade Jordan.

The senior wing made 7-of-9 shots (five 3-pointers) en route to 20 points.

Valencia’s Kayla Konrad (23) goes in for a layup as Hart’s Annie Christofferson (23) tries to stop her during a game at Valencia on Feb. 10. Katharine Lotze/Signal

It was her second straight strong outing. Last Saturday against West High of Torrance, she made all five of her shots in the first half and finished with an efficient 16 points.

“It fires us up (when Jade shoots well),” Konrad said Wednesday. “She’s a great shooter, and we know she can shoot. When she hits them, it kind of gives us that edge.”

Those two form half of the most decorated class in Valencia girls basketball history. Konrad, Jordan, Ashlee Ane and Kenadee Honaker (the killer E’s) went 37-3 in Foothill League play over four varsity seasons.

The postseason hadn’t been as kind, though, with Valencia losing in the first round in 2014 and in the quarters in 2015 and 2016.

This year, their last, has had a different vibe.

“We’ve always wanted it,” Honaker said. “But I feel like this year, it’s more like, after this, for five of us, it’s the end.”

Said Ane, “You have to give it all up, because you’re not going to wear this jersey for much longer.”

Still, the Vikings aren’t putting too much pressure on themselves.

They hope to treat the semifinal like any other game. Mike hasn’t broached the subject of the Vikings breaking new ground. The Vikings haven’t prepared any differently.

“We have to stay the same the whole time like it’s just another game,” Honaker said. “But, of course, it’s more exciting because we’ve never been here before.

“But we have to keep the same mindset.”

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