Valencia boys basketball buckles down on defense to defeat Hart

Valencia's Jake Hlywiak (2) shoots and scores against Hart defender Julian Verrier (24), left, at Valencia High School on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Lately, the Valencia boys basketball team has been making an emphasis in practice to get better on the defensive end.

The work in practice is paying dividends as Valencia defeated Hart 82-47 on Thursday night at Valencia High School.

Senior Josh Assiff recorded a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, but it was his work on the defensive end that impressed.

He finished with four steals and a block and the Vikings team finished with 12 steals and seven blocks total.

“We’re trying to make more of an emphasis on working harder, making sure we’re talking on defense, help-side defense, the little things,” Assiff said. “I’m just trying to do everything for my team and put myself in a position to help my teammates succeed and get our offense started. Even though we can score we want to hang our hat on defense.”

Junior Jake Hlywiak got the offense going for the Vikings in the first quarter. He had 10 points in the initial period and finished the contest with 19 points, five rebounds and a steal.

He was also lights out from beyond the arc hitting three 3-pointers — something he’s been doing all season.

“The first shot going in it felt great from there. I was just trying to get out and get easy buckets,” Hlywiak said. “I kind of kickstarted the run, got up by 10 points, and just from there we didn’t look back. We were D’ing up, we were able to break the press and get easy buckets”

After getting down 16-3 early, Hart was able to fight back and bring the game to within 10 points by the end of the first quarter.

The Vikings built the lead back up to 18 by halftime and pulled away in the second half.

“We didn’t play like we play and we have to get back to that tomorrow,” Hart head coach Tom Kelly said. “We played hard, we just got away from doing some of the things we do and they’re a pretty good team.”

Senior Julian Verrier led the Indians with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.

Isaac Deedon added six points, four rebounds and a steal and Ty Penberthy logged six points, two assists and two steals.

Valencia also got solid play from its bench, as Grant Kim, Ahmad Loving and Kevin Konrad all contributed in limited minutes.

Kim finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Konrad had six points and six rebounds and Loving added two points, two rebounds and a block.

“When you play against our bench there is no drop-off. They know what to do,” Assiff said. “We all play hard. We’re gritty.”

“Say we’re not playing particularly great in the beginning, those guys come in with energy, getting steals, trapping, getting to the basket hard,” Hlywiak said about the second unit. “When we see them going we want to match their energy.”

The Vikings will play next at the Damien Tournament at Damien High School on Wednesday Dec. 26. It’s an early game with tip-off scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

The Indians head to the Sylmar Holiday Showcase on Saturday, before hosting the Hart Holiday Tournament Classic starting on Wednesday.

Canyon 45, Golden Valley 38

The Cowboys notched their first league win of the season, defeating the Grizzlies on the road.

“The team played hard. We talked about how hard it is to win on the road in this league and we found a way,” Canyon head coach Sean DeLong said. “We are feeling good and I hope the guys are enjoying this one.”

Junior Anthony Gallo led the Cowboys with 13 points, five assists and five rebounds. Senior Willie Yomba recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Junior Anthony Regalado added 10 points.

Saugus 62, West Ranch 59

The Centurions and Wildcats both moved to 1-1 in league play after Thursday night’s result at West Ranch High School.

Adrian McIntyre recorded a double-double for Saugus with 31 points and 10 rebounds and Stephen Tampus logged 14 points and eight assists.

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