The spirit of Reggie Miller – one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NBA history – seemed to live on for the home team Friday night.
Valencia watched the Bears knock down 10 3-pointers, keeping the Vikings on the comeback trail all night as their CIF-Southern Section title bid came to a close with a 67-62 loss in the Division 2A semifinals.
It marked the longest CIF-SS run in Valencia’s history and the team will get a crack at the CIF State playoffs due to their semifinals berth. The brackets for the state playoffs are set to be released early next week.
“We’ve faced so much adversity this season and we’ve kind of had to battle and fight through so many different scenarios, you just want to take a moment to catch your breath and be proud,” said Valencia coach Bill Bedgood. “We beat three 20-win teams in a row in the playoffs. We kept on finding ways to win.
“Tonight, I think the biggest difference was that they had the game at home.”
Points did not come easy for the Vikings early on and despite trailing by as many as 13 points with just under seven minutes to go in the game, they cut Poly’s lead to 61-57 with 18 seconds to play.
The Bears helped close out the night, though, with a 9 of 12 mark from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Tobin Kund was at the forefront of their 3-point barrage and led Poly with 17 points, hitting four 3s.
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“We played a lot of different defenses to try and slow them down,” Bedgood said. “Some of those 3s they set up on offense but some of them were from loose balls and offensive rebounds. They clearly shoot the ball well in this gym.”
Senior Ben Grant led the Vikings with 16 points and Jayden Trower was behind him with 14 points while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
Senior standout Dexter Akanno was held to 11 points – all coming in the fourth quarter – as he battled foul trouble and an ankle injury that’s nagged him throughout the postseason.
“It was pretty incredible that he was even able to play; really tough kid,” Bedgood said. “He comes to the gym in a walking boot and leaves the gym in a walking boot.”
Poly jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter as Valencia (15-15) turned the ball over on three of its first six possessions. The Vikings managed to enter intermission down just 36-31, with Trower providing 11 of his points in the first half.
Kund drained one of his four 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter to sends the Bears into the final frame with a 49-38 lead. Grant knocked down a 3 of his own to bring the Vikings back within single digits for good at 56-49 and 3:11 to go in the game.
“We played with a better sense of urgency in the second half,” Bedgood said. “But we just had too many missed layup and free throws from the first half that we couldn’t close the gap.”