Valencia junior Dexter Akanno came off the bench at times last season.
Hart junior Whitten Dominguez served as the sixth or seventh man for a senior-laden Indians team.
The two played second fiddle to no one in 2017, leading their respective squad to a share of the league title and earning Foothill League co-Players of the Year honors.
“It was definitely something that I wanted to get for sure,” Dominguez said, “and last year, a good friend of mine, (then-senior) Chad Donohoe, won it. That was also motivation to win it.”
Said Akanno, “I was really surprised. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t think I was going to get it. I thought maybe first team, second team or honorable mention. As the year went on, I was like, ‘Why can’t I get it?’”
Valencia embodied that mindset down the stretch, winning its final four league games and upending the Indians, 58-51, in the finale on Feb. 10.
Akanno led the Vikings with 13 points that night, as Valencia built a 14-point lead as the fourth quarter opened.
Then Dominguez found his stroke. He hit three fourth-quarter treys to pull Hart within one, but the Vikings hit free throws and held on, securing Akanno’s season-long goal.
“I was just trying to win league,” he said, “and maybe if anything comes with it, honorable mention or first team or second, I’ll take that. The ultimate goal was to win league.”
Akanno averaged a team-best 13.8 points to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists inleague play as he emerged as one of Foothill’s best floor generals whose job was to…
“Control the tempo, control the team. Score when the team really needs a bucket … and lock down on defense,” he said.
As for Dominguez, he knew after Hart graduated its starting five, he’d have to go from a contributor to a controller.
“This year, I’m now one of the main players along with (senior) Ben (Kaufman),” Dominguez said. “I know I’m going to have to control the game and be the main contributor.”
Dominguez averaged 19 points a game in league, his jump shot baffling more than one opponent.
“You kind of practice it in the gym, shooting up shots and envisioning that situation (like the finale at Valencia),” Dominguez said. “Then to actually do that with everybody screaming, it kind of gives you chills.”
All-Foothill League teams
Yvan Yomba, Sr., Canyon
Ben Kaufman, Sr., Hart
Zach Phipps, Sr., Saugus
Anthony McIntyre, Sr., Saugus
Jayden Trower, So., Valencia
Austin Galuppo, Jr., West Ranch
Josue Valencia, Sr., Canyon
Richard Kawakami, So., Golden Valley
Renz Brual, Sr., Hart
Zach Hawkins, Jr., Valencia
Chris Kodama, Sr., West Ranch
Suren Aghazadian, Sr., West Ranch
Jack Yerem, Sr., Canyon
Josh Martin, So., Golden Valley
Caleb Waldeck, Jr., Hart
Luke Bodeau, Jr., Saugus
Kyler Motoyasu, Sr., Valencia
Andrew Austin, So., West Ranch