The Valencia boys basketball team withstood a potential fourth-quarter comeback by West Ranch to hold on to a 65-58 win on Tuesday night at Valencia.
The Vikings built a double-digit lead in the first half behind a strong performance from senior forward Josh Assiff, who had 13 points, two rebounds, two steals and a block in the first 16 minutes of the game.
Assiff and his teammates were focused on playing hard-nosed defense, forcing the Wildcats into tough shots and turnovers.
Defense has been a point of emphasis for the Vikings, something head coach Bill Bedgood and assistant coach Alan Woskanian have been hammering home at practice.
“If we don’t play defense tonight, they win that thing easily the way we were playing offensively,” Bedgood said.
“In the first quarter we came up kind of hot, but in the third the scoring kind of dropped,” Assiff said. “I’m trying to hang my hat on defense, that’s from our coaches instilling it in us. Trying to get us to work harder on defense and I’m just trying to step up in that department and be a big-time leader for us attacking on the defensive end.”
Assiff finished the contest with a team-high 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
After falling behind early, West Ranch hung tough to bring the deficit to nine points entering the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats were lights out from beyond the arc in the second half, hitting seven of its nine 3-pointers in that period.
“In terms of the positive, we hung in there with a very good team. They are a matchup nightmare for most teams but our team has a little bit of height, and I thought we matched up pretty well with these guys,” West Ranch head coach Ron Manalastas said. “We battled and played hard. We hung in there but our goal is to not just hang in there, it’s to go out compete and not just compete, get out there and beat people.
“That’s the only way we’re going to get a little bit of respect we deserve, but you won’t get it unless you beat people. I know my kids, they don’t like this taste in their mouth right and I know that the next time we play we’ll have a much better effort.”
Junior forward Clyde Seo led the Wildcats with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also had four steals.
Junior guard Dylan Stuman came off the bench and hit some big shots for West Ranch, finishing the game with 12 points, two assists and a steal.
The Wildcats showed great composure in a hostile environment, blocking out all the outside noise and focusing on the task at hand.
“It’s nice to have returning guys that have been varsity players before. Dylan has been in this environment, he’s played in an atmosphere like this,” Manalastas said. “Nothing really fazed him. He went out and did his job. With Clyde, you’re looking at a third-year varsity player. Nothing really fazes Clyde. When you play a lot of basketball, travel ball, high school basketball, you’ve seen every kind of situation.”
While the Vikings came away with the win, Bedgood wasn’t pleased overall with what he saw on the offensive end.
“We’re turning the ball over in layup situations, missing dunks, missing easy layups, making the wrong read and all those things keep the game close,” Bedgood said. “Then they hit clutch shots and now we’re on our heels. We have to be better, slow down. We play fast. It’s like Wooden always said, ‘be quick, don’t be in a hurry.’”
Senior Jayden Trower finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks for Valencia.
Junior guard Jake Hlywiak logged 11 points, two rebounds and three assists, but did not hit a 3-pointer, something he’s been doing all season.
“He hasn’t had a bad game yet. He makes so many shots we’re always expecting the next one to go in,” Bedgood said of Hlywiak. “The thing that he is going to realize is guys are really keying in on him now. He’s going to be the focal point of a lot of team’s defenses so we have to figure out ways to exploit that.”
Trower and Assiff combined for five of Valencia’s six 3-pointers.
“I’ve finally found my jumper. I’ve been putting in a lot of work. That’s going to make us even more versatile,” Assiff said. “If I can keep shooting like this, we got Jake shooting, it’s going to be a big time nightmare for other teams. Jake’s going to be fine. This one game isn’t going to shake his confidence. I think next game he’ll probably come out and hit four our five. It’s what he does. He’s a clip.”
Valencia will take its 3-0 league record on the road on Friday, facing Golden Valley. West Ranch, who is 1-2 in league, will also be on the road, taking on Hart.