SANTA ANA — Asked for an interview after Valencia High’s 53-45 loss to Mater Dei in Santa Ana on Tuesday, senior Kenadee Honaker first had to wrestle out of an embrace from her dad, Kevin, a Vikings assistant coach.
Head coach Jerry Mike choked up addressing the team in the locker room.
Even after a playoff run that extended the season by more than a month, it was hard for Valencia’s staff to say goodbye to the most successful team in program history after a loss in the regional semifinals of the CIF Division 2 state playoffs.
Mater Dei, evidently, wanted to keep Valencia close, too.
The Monarchs (23-8) smothered the Vikings (29-6) with a full-court, trapping press and a variety of half-court defensive looks.
The Vikings turned the ball over 11 times before halftime, when they trailed 29-19, and 17 times in all.
Had Valencia seen pressure like that this year?
“No … no,” said senior Kayla Konrad.
The worst part of the press?
“They just have such tall girls,” said Honaker, who finished with a team-high 14 points.
Duke-bound Jayda Adams led Mater Dei with 19 points, while Valencia’s Chyanne Pagkalinawan scored 10.
Viking Ashlee Ane added nine, seven of which came in the fourth quarter as Valencia made one final surge.
Honaker hit a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left to cut the deficit to nine. After a Mater Dei turnover, Ane scored a layup with 35 seconds to go.
The Vikings came no closer.
“We fought start to finish. We (just) turned it over a few too many times there, especially in the beginning,” said Mike, who led the Vikings to the program’s first-ever CIF-Southern Section title earlier this month.
However, Viking Jade Jordan suffered a concussion in that game, a win over Canyon, and missed Valencia’s three state playoff contests.
Chidinma Ikonte filled in admirably, but Valencia could’ve used another shooter Tuesday as the Monarchs honed in on Konrad.
Valencia’s all-time leading scorer finished with eight points and didn’t attempt a shot in the second or fourth quarters.
Still, she’ll likely be remembered as one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s best girls basketball players and may win CIF-SS D1AA Player of the Year honors.
“It was super special. I know I’m crying,” Konrad said, “but they’re tears of joy because you’ll never find a better team to play with. Everyone is such a family.”
Valencia advanced as far as any SCV girls basketball team ever has. Hart lost in the regional semifinals in 1989 and 2007.
The 1987 Saugus boys are the only local team to reach a basketball regional final.
The Centurions lost to Woodbridge of Irvine at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, also on March 14.