By Jacob H. Pollon
For The Signal
The Valencia boys basketball team has not had much success recently when it travels to West Ranch.
That all changed Tuesday night after the Vikings pulled off a 61-51 Foothill League victory for their first road win up the hill on Valencia Blvd. in seven years.
Valencia (6-11 overall, 2-1 in Foothill League) received big games from its newest player and a wily veteran to remain in second place just one game behind undefeated league leader Hart (15-5, 3-0).
Richard Kawakami, who just recently became eligible after transferring from rival Golden Valley, scored 18 points and Dexter Akanno and Josh Assiff each poured in 15 points to lead Valencia.
“We knew it would be a tough game and our coaches told us we needed to be perfect in order for us to win,” Kawakami said. “It was great to see us play as a team. We haven’t been doing that the past few games.”
Valencia trailed early but turned things around with a 22-point second quarter. Assiff was the catalyst scoring eight points during a 13-2 second-quarter run to give Valencia a 28-18 lead it would never relinquish.
West Ranch (10-6, 1-2) would draw closer in the third quarter, but baskets from Ben Grant and Jayden Trower extended the lead to 50-40. Valencia would lead by as many as 11 points before West Ranch seniors Austin Galuppo and Andrew Austin each traded off scoring baskets in a fourth-quarter comeback attempt that never came to fruition.
“The team trusted me a lot,” Kawakami said. “My teammates really got me started. It felt really good to contribute so much to my new team.”
The victory was a much-needed confidence booster after a tough slate of tournament and nonleague games in December and earlier this month for Valencia.
“We play the tough preseason schedule to prepare us for tough road games in league,” first-year Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood said. “West Ranch is a tough place to get a win. Valencia has not won here in seven years.”
Bedgood was also pleased with his team’s resilience and composure in the second half.
“We played a little more disciplined and executed down the stretch,” Bedgood said. “That and our defensive effort extended our lead and kept the game out of reach.”
Valencia and Golden Valley are tied for second place with one league loss each. The two teams will meet Friday at Golden Valley.
“We have to stay focused and be prepared,” Bedgood said. “There are no easy nights in this league.”
Hart 65, Canyon 44
Luca Robinson scored 24 points to lead four Hart players in double figures and remain unbeaten in league play. Whitten Dominguez scored 18 points and Tre Harrill and Caleb Waldeck each scored 11 points for Hart.
Golden Valley 67, Saugus 63
Adrian McIntyre, a rising sophomore, had another huge outburst, scoring 36 points. It wasn’t enough for Saugus. Luke Bodeau added 13 points for the Centurions, who fell into a fourth-place tie in the league standings.