Valencia applies the pressure in win over Mission Prep

Valencia's CJ Finley (1) drives in toward the basket as he is guarded by a Mission Prep player at Valencia on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal
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Traveling 160-plus miles to play a postseason game on the road wasn’t going to be enough pressure for Mission Prep.

The Valencia boys basketball team really wanted to dial up the heat in its CIF-Southern Section Division 2A contest.

That’s what you have to do when you play a team that had won six straight to win a share of the PAC-8 League title and knock off No. 1-seeded St. Bernard in the 2A opening round.

The Vikings pressed, pressed and pressed some more to jump out to a sizeable lead and held on for a 68-64 win at Valencia.

Valencia will host Hesperia on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

“Any time you have to make that long drive in the playoffs, the thought, if you’re the team at home, is you want to jump on them early and hope that they’re a little sluggish after that long bus ride,” said Valencia coach Bill Bedgood.

To say Mission Prep came out sluggish would be a bit generous.

Valencia (13-15) went into the half with a 37-22 lead and increased that advantage to 59-37 heading into the fourth quarter, seemingly  in transition throughout the night.

“We saw that (Mission Prep’s) guards hadn’t drawn a lot of pressure, so we wanted to get in their gut early and use our length to our advantage,” said Josh Assiff, who led Valencia with 17 points and nine rebounds. “They’re a really good team in the halfcourt but we felt like we could run them.”

Mission Prep (17-10) slowly chipped away at its deficit and found itself down four with seven seconds to play following a pair of free throws from Kirk Fragione.

But the Royals never got the ball back as the Vikings ran out the clock to hang on for the win. Remy Paquet led the Royals with 19 points.

“Last year we only made it to the first round, so it’s exhilarating,” said Jayden Trower, who had 15 points and seven rebounds. “It’s a good feeling. I feel like we could go all the way. We’ve just got to keep pushing.”

The Vikings were without Dexter Akanno after he rolled his right ankle in Thursday’s practice. Akanno was in a walking boot but Bedgood said he was confident the guard would play Tuesday.

Richard Kawakami helped put the clamp down on a possible Mission Prep comeback, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half. He was also second on the team with eight rebounds. C.J. Finley was the final Viking to score in double figures, adding 10 points.

Valencia last advanced to the CIF-SS quarterfinals in 2016 where it lost 68-54 to St. John Bosco.

“I’ve got no words, man.” Assiff said. “I’m excited and I’m trying to stay humbled but I feel like we’re going to make a run.”

Los Altos 73, Hart 59

The Foothill League champs had their season ended by the No. 1 seed in Division 2AA.

Caleb Waldeck led Hart with 20 points, with Whitten Dominguez adding 15 points and Luca Robinson 11 points.

The Indians finished the season at 21-8.

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