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Valencia boys hoops completes comeback, advance to semifinals

Valencia senior point guard Richard Kawakami goes up for a contested shot in a playoff matchup with Temecula Valley at Valencia High School Thursday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

In a rare occurrence, Valencia boys basketball trailed at halftime at home on Thursday. But, in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA tournament, the Vikings were able to come back against Temecula Valley for an 85-68 win.

Valencia was the first to dent the scoreboard with a corner 3 from Jake Hlywiak. Richard Kawakami followed up with a layup after multiple rebounds from his teammates.

The Vikings (24-6 overall) stayed in the lead throughout the first quarter, which was capped by a layup from Grant Kim, with an assist from Kevin Konrad. But although the Vikes looked good, they didn’t seem to play with the same ferocity, specifically on defense, as in games past.

“The tempo that we play, the speed that we play at, we were a little bit on our heels,” said coach Bill Bedgood. “I feel like they were kind of playing a little bit harder and a little bit faster than we were in the beginning.”

Temecula Valley (25-6) capitalized on that cautiousness in the second quarter, going on a scoring run that started with a Nate Jacobsen free throw to gain a 26-25 lead with 5:25 to go until halftime.

Valencia senior forward Jayden Trower goes up for the layup on a breakaway in a playoff matchup with Temecula Valley at Valencia High School Thursday Night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Jayden Trower got the advantage back to Valencia with a layup to make it 27-26. The lead changed hands once more when Jacobsen made two more free throws to give Temecula Valley a 41-35 lead heading into halftime.

“They were scoring a lot of buckets on us, so we just focused the defensive end, like take away their backcourt because that’s where they were getting a lot of points,” said Hlywiak. “And then just continue to like push the pace because we know we condition better than anyone out here.

“They thought they were running us, but it just totally flipped the second half.”

The Vikings came out of the locker room revitalized. Josh Assiff capitalized on a three-point play with a layup and a free throw at 7:32. Kawakami made a layup one minute later to pull Valencia ahead 43-41.

Clinging to the lead, Valencia heated up in the remainder of the quarter. Assiff scored on another layup at the 5:50 mark and earned another and-one opportunity.

“Once he got that second and-one and it put us up by six, that’s where we just started the momentum going,” Hlywiak said. “We were all getting hyped and the bench was going crazy, the crowd. So that’s kind of where it started. And we just kept going from there.”

MORE: SCCS boys basketball headed to semifinals with win over Warren

Then, starting at the 2:46 mark, Noah Veluzat scored on two layups and Konrad made one all in a matter of 30 seconds.

As if to add an exclamation point on the third frame, Trower took a pass from Kawakami, pivoted, and jumped up for a dunk.

Shaken, the Golden Bears only managed to score nine points in the third, three of which were on free throws.

Valencia junior forward Kevin Konrad puts up a jumper in a playoff matchup with Temecula Valley at Valencia High School Thursday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Carrying a 56-50 lead into the final quarter, the Vikings had settled in and were comfortable, but still played with an edge. Temecula Valley’s Raphael Allen and Jacobsen were each able to manage a 3-pointer, but Valencia strung together a 3-pointer from Hlywiak, a cutback from Kawakami and a layup from Trower to seal the game.

Valencia will next play Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday, with the site still to be determined.

“I feel like we have a good chance to go all the way,” Trower said. “So we were in the same position last year, we just can’t mess it up. We’ve just got to keep pushing and play how we play.”

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