Walking through the Santa Clarita Christian School hallways during basketball season, Noah Veluzat was constantly greeted by pint-sized SCCS basketball fans.
“They’re just really nice,” Veluzat said. “They’re like, ‘Hey Noah, good game last night’ and always compliment you and always wanting to be around you.”
It wasn’t just kids that took notice of Veluzat and the Cardinals, however. The team took Santa Clarita Valley basketball by storm and ended up with a plethora of titles – including the SCV’s first-ever boys basketball state title – and the Signal Sports Award for Team of the Year.
At the start of the season, transfers like Jordan and Caden Starr, TJ and Kaleb Lowery and Ty Penberthy joined battle-ready freshman Veluzat and reliable returner Justin Collins.
“I think from basically before the start of the season, I was saying in my head, this is the team that’s going to take us there. To the state championship.”
Collins’ inkling seemed far-fetched at first as the Cardinals slowly began to build chemistry and trust. Their early pre-league slate was riddled with losses, but the Cards eventually found consistency. In early January, SCCS managed to go on a five-game win streak – which included a win over Valencia at the War on the Floor Showcase – to set them up for success in the Heritage League.
MORE SIGNAL SPORTS AWARDS: Female Athlete of the Year / Male Athlete of the Year / Most Exciting Athlete
Success might be an understatement. A better word might be domination. The Cardinals went a perfect 12-0 in league play, outscoring opponents 1,035 to 455.
Throughout all the wins, though, one moment stood out to Veluzat.
“We were down 15 to Valley Torah with three minutes left and we came all the way back,” he said. “I think I knew at that point we could win the state title.”
Although Collins’ state prediction came prior to the season and Veluzat’s came in late January, they both were further evidence that the Cardinals were dialed in as a unit.
SCCS sailed into the postseason and had home court advantage for all four games leading up to its CIF-Southern Section Division 5AAA title.
The Cards kept home advantage in the state playoffs until the CIF Division V state title game against Argonaut of Jackson, which was played at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The home court of the Sacramento Kings.
“That was unreal,” Veluzat said. “Playing like, in front of all those people in that stadium and playing on TV and stuff. That was just so cool. It was like a dream come true. It was like playing in an NBA game, almost.”
Collins has no hesitation when it comes to his confidence in returning to the state title game, but the Cardinals are also ready for a goal just as important: building up a reputation for basketball in the SCV.
“We were Division 5, but we won state and when (we) won state, it put our name on the map. Like, these guys can really ball.”
Inside the Ballot Box
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Key: First place: 5 points, Second place: 3 points, Third place: 1 point
Former Teams of the Year
2016-17 — Valencia girls basketball
2015-16 — Saugus girls cross country
2014-15 — Saugus girls cross country
2013-14 — Saugus boys cross country
2012-13 — Saugus girls cross country
2011-12 — Saugus girls cross country and Golden Valley boys cross country
2010-11 — Saugus girls cross country
2009-10 — Saugus girls cross country
2008-09 — Saugus girls cross country
2007-08 — No award given
2006-07 — Canyon football
2005-06 — Canyon football