There was a sense of relief in the voice of Valencia boys basketball coach Bill Bedgood following the team’s 91-80 win over Saugus on Tuesday night.
Sure, the win to open Foothill League play was nice. But it was how the Vikings won the game that led to that relief.
Valencia possesses the tallest team in the Foothill League, and they went to the post early and often against Saugus.
Josh Assiff (6-foot-6) and Jayden Trower (6-foot-7) scored 17 points each in the victory. Richard Kawakami (6-foot-6) was making his Vikings debut after transferring from Golden Valley and had 10 points in limited action off the bench.
“That’s how we like to play and that’s when we’re at our best,” Bedgood said Tuesday. “That was the best effort we made to get the ball down low all year.”
The struggle to get the ball down low this season had been apparent. The Vikings had lost six straight entering Tuesday, including a 73-48 loss to Santa Clarita Christian last Saturday.
When the Vikings bigs get going, it’s bad news for their Foothill League counterparts. As Saugus cut Valencia’s lead to single digits with less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Trower rattled off nine straight points, working with ease under the basket.
Valencia was also able to get out to a 47-33 lead at the half despite Dexter Akanno, who led the Vikings with 20 points, sitting out most of the second quarter due to foul trouble.
The tallest team certainly doesn’t equal the best team. But no other Foothill League comes all that close to Valencia in the height department, making them a potential matchup nightmare down the stretch.
Hart runs deep
What Valencia has in height, Hart matches with its depth. Caleb Waldeck led the Indians with 25 points in their league-opening win over Golden Valley, but it’s anyone’s guess who might lead them in scoring on any given night.
Last year’s co-Foothill League Player of the Year, Whitten Dominguez, might be the most likely suspect to lead them in points. But Waldeck, along with Luca Robinson, Tre Harrill Cory Sveiven and Carson Weiss have shown the ability to score in bunches.
Harrill has also proven to be one of the league’s top distributors. Hart and Valencia meet Friday at Hart.
McIntrye makes Saugus a threat
Saugus touts one of the youngest teams, and with that, one of the most intriguing underclassman. Sophomore Adrian McIntyre led the Centurions with 21 points in the loss to Valencia.
He’s already scored 46 points in a game this year and gave Saugus life early in the fourth quarter Tuesday, hitting 3s on back-to-back possessions to make it a single-digit game at the time.
Saugus had four sophomores on the floor at one point Tuesday. They also have two steadying senior forces in Luke Bodeau and Dylan Spring. The Cents are young, but also dangerous, and that starts with McIntyre.