As the final seconds ticked away in the first half, Valencia girls basketball effortlessly executed some perimeter passing before handing the ball off to Kayla Konrad, who shot a textbook 3-pointer in synchronization with the buzzer.
The shot bobbled from one side of the hoop to the other then fell toward the hardwood.
The Vikings had to overcome frustrating missed shots across the opening half but persevered to beat Bakersfield High 59-40 in the second round of the CIF Division 2 state playoffs at home on Wednesday.
“You just have to keep a clear mindset and keep shooting the ball because if you don’t shoot it, then how are they supposed to go in,” said Konrad, who finished with 27 points. “Then we go back on defense and try to pick it up there and that usually puts momentum onto our offense and it kind of helped in the second half.”
Getting to the net was easy. Finishing was hard. Valencia (28-5) made four shots in the first quarter, then six in the second to lead the Drillers (23-5) by 18 points at halftime.
On the other side of the break, the Vikes’ attack continued to look crisp. Konrad continuously drove to the net despite opposition from the Drillers’ Taylor Caldwell.
“(The plan on offense) was just to keep it moving, keep the ball swinging and using our pick and roll offense and just trying to keep space,” said coach Jerry Mike. “We just had to stay with our motion offense.”
The confidence of coming off the program’s first-ever CIF-SS title probably helped them stay on track, too.
“(Confidence) is a big thing,” Konrad said. “We’ve played a bunch of games and the teams are getting better. Everyone, we play all the games and we just have to be confident in ourselves and not slack off too much.”
Valencia was without three-year varsity starter Jade Jordan, who suffered a concussion on Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section championship game.
Jordan was a key shooter and defender, but Chidinma Ikonte, who played in her place, showed potential as a replacement.
“Jade is an awesome player,” said Kenadee Honaker, who finished the game with 16 points.
“Without her, it felt definitely different because I don’t think we’ve ever not played with her … but ‘Chiddy’ did awesome and stepped up.”
Valencia next plays on the road Saturday against Chaminade High of West Hills, which won the state open division title last year.