Two Santa Clarita Valley boys basketball teams are still alive in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs as Valencia and Santa Clarita Christian School will be on the road tonight at 7 p.m.
The Vikings enter the CIF-SS Division 2AA semifinals after a first-round bye and two double-digit victories at home, earning a 52-40 win over Santa Monica and an 85-68 win over Temecula Valley in the quarterfinals to advance.
Standing in between them and the title game is a 23-8 Rancho Cucamonga team that defeated Hesperia and Heritage Christian by double figures in the first and second rounds, respectively and upset Camarillo, the No. 17 ranked team in the state, according to MaxPreps.com, in the quarterfinals on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to advance 86-83.
“They have great senior guard play,” said Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood. “Their two starters Shaden Knight and Myles Jones are both very experienced guys who are competitors and play hard on both ends. They are well coached, a good program and they played a great schedule. It’s going to be a great game, one that we are looking forward to.”
The Vikings made program history a year ago, making it to the semifinals for the first time ever and have plans to rewrite history one more time.
“I think we are trying to draw more upon the experience of getting to the semis last year,” Bedgood said. “I felt like last year we kind of surprised some people by getting as far as we did. I felt like when we got there, we could have played a little better. I felt like we kind of relaxed because it was the furthest the school had ever gone and we knew we were playing at state.
I think this year, guys are a little bit more focused on moving forward. None of us want to be done. The team is very close and cares about each other on and off the court. Really, for us, we are just trying to keep the season going because we are having so much fun.”
Tip-off is at Rancho Cucamonga High School at 7 p.m. tonight.
The Cardinals had a tumultuous season after forfeiting 13 games this season due to an ineligible player on their roster and finished with a 9-21 overall record to slip into the CIF-SS Division 3AA playoffs.
But that didn’t stop them from ripping through their final three games of the regular season, defeating Valley Torah, Trinity Classical Academy and Mater Dei Catholic all by double digits.
Qualifying for the Division 3AA playoffs, SCCS continued to win big, defeating all three of their opponents in the first-round, second-round and quarterfinal playoff games by 20, 25 and 33 points, respectively, averaging 86.3 points per game in the contests.
“Just building up everything we’ve done thus far,” said SCCS’s Caden Starr. “We hit the gym being mentally ready, getting shots up, being ready to play.”
Awaiting SCCS is the Golden League co-champion Highland High School of Palmdale in the semifinals. The Bulldogs are 24-7 overall and also won their first two playoff games by double digits in wins against Claremont and Ventura.
In its quarterfinal matchup against San Gabriel Academy, Highland’s captain guard Julian Williams nailed the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to advance 56-53.
Understanding that both teams can score, SCCS will focus on utilizing their length and size to disrupt the Bulldogs rhythm on offense.
“Our defense. We need to play great defense against them because they’re a pretty good team and our energy level needs to be very high,” said SCCS’s Josh O’Garro. “We need to come out with a mindset that we don’t want to go home. We don’t want to end our season like this. We did so much and worked too hard to get here, so we want to come in, we want to win it all.”
SCCS’s 6-foot-8 junior forward Kaleb Lowery has returned from an ankle injury and has seen an increase in minutes over the last two playoff wins and says that defense will be key in determining the final result of the game.
“They’re really good, but we’ve just got to come out this weekend, play hard defensively. That’s been the thing that’s kind of affected us,” Lowery said. “If we have a lockout defense, we will beat every team by 30, 40 every night. We’ve just got to come out strong on defense, shoot well and just yeah, come out and play hard.”
Game time is at Highland High School at 7 p.m tonight.