Saugus already knew Valencia was going to have the height advantage when the two met to open Foothill League play Tuesday night.
That advantage grew even larger with the addition of Golden Valley transfer Richard Kawakami, who was deemed eligible by CIF to play as of Monday.
Valencia flourished in the post, beating Saugus 91-80 in front of a packed house on its home floor.
“I think our size was a bit much and we exploited it,” said Valencia coach Bill Bedgood. “We got it inside a ton. That was the difference tonight. They were relentless inside.”
Though Bedgood thinks his team plays best inside, he said he hadn’t seen an effort like Tuesday’s to get the ball into the post. That was part of the reason the Vikings entered their league opener on a six-game losing streak.
Dexter Akanno led Valencia with 20 points, with Josh Assiff (6-foot-6) and Jayden Trower (6-foot-7) chipping in 15 points apiece.
“It’s been kind of tough for us lately; we’ve been playing a lot of top-level competition,” Assiff said. “We hadn’t been able to play in the post. … A lot of people said we weren’t going to come out here and do our thing, so we made a concerted effort to play special basketball.”
Assiff had 15 of his points at halftime to get Valencia out to a 47-33 lead. A breakaway dunk from Adrian McIntyre, who led Saugus with 21 points, gave the Centurions a 12-7 lead out of the gate.
But Saugus never regained the lead past the first quarter. It managed to cut the deficit down to nine points with less than five minutes to go in the game.
“It’s a tough task with their height,” said Saugus coach Alfredo Manzano. “We battled with them down there and got into some foul trouble. Luke (Bodeau) got into foul trouble, which was a big blow for us.”
Bodeau was second on the Cents with 15 points. Kawakami, who’s ended with 10 points in his Vikings debut.
It was a reunion for Bedgood, who coached Saugus for four seasons prior to taking the Valencia job in the offseason.
“It’s bittersweet,” Bedgood said. “I still care about guys over there.”
Valencia will play at Hart on Friday and Saugus will host West Ranch.
West Ranch 78, Canyon 44
Austin Galuppo led West Ranch with 27 points. Andrew Austin tallied 16 points, with Deaken Stangl third on the team with 10 points.
Hart 63, Golden Valley 44
Caleb Waldeck led Hart with 25 points.