The stands and parking lot were overflowing, the verbal jabs rained in from opposing student sections and between the lines, you bet it was physical.
It was everything people have come to expect from the Hart and Valencia boys basketball rivalry.
Hart got the last laugh Friday night, though, defending its home floor with a 70-53 win over the Vikings.
“It was really important to set the tone right away,” said Whitten Dominguez, who led Hart with 20 points. “We just wanted to let them know Hart comes out strong. … This is our place, so we don’t want anybody in here taking it.”
Dominguez played a major role in setting that tone, scoring 11 of his points in the first quarter. Hart (14- 5, 2-0 Foothill League) went into the half with a 42-26 lead, clinging on to a chance thanks to 13 first-half points from CJ Finley, who led the Vikings with 18 points.
“We let them control the tempo,” said Valencia coach Bill Bedgood.
Valencia (5-11, 1-1 Foothill League) crept back within single digits on several occasions in the second half.
A three-point play from Finley and layup from Jayden Trower brought the Vikings to within 58-47, with a little under four minutes to play.
Luca Robinson followed that with a three-point play of his own then Caleb Waldeck was fouled shooting a 3-pointer, and hit all three free throws. Waldeck was second on the team with 12 points while Robinson added a team-high eight rebounds to go with 11 points.
“At the half, we just kept talking about controlling our emotions,” said Hart senior Tre Harrill, who had 11 points and six rebounds. “We already had a pretty big lead, so it was just going to come down to us playing our style.”
Hart’s defense kept Valencia’s post presence under wraps for most of the night. Josh Assiff and Jayden Trower, who both had 17 points in Tuesday’s win over Saugus, combined for 10 points. Dexter Akanno battled foul trouble most of the night and finished with six points.
“Hart did what it normally likes to do, play a saggy man defense and pack it in, and we couldn’t penetrate it in the first half,” Bedgood said. “… We started to play our game in the beginning of the third quarter but we just couldn’t catch them.”
Cory Sveiven added 11 points as well, giving Hart five players to score in double figures.
“We’ve always tried to be a team and not one guy,” said Hart coach Tom Kelly. “On any given night, we have a bunch of guys who can score the ball. You cant just key on one guy.”
Saugus 78, West Ranch 76 (OT)
Adrian McIntyre’s 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the game led Saugus to its first league victory. McIntrye matched his career high of 46 points while Luke Bodeau added 19 points.
West Ranch moves to 1-1 in league play after beating Canyon on Tuesday. Saugus also advanced to 1-1 in league action with the win.
Golden Valley 58, Canyon 51
The Grizzlies pulled away for their first Foothill League win after entering the fourth quarter tied 37-37. Canyon dropped its second straight to open league play.