The End of Summer Shootout at Damien High School got underway with two local SCV schools: Santa Clarita Christian School and Valencia making the trek to the city of La Verne to kick off the first of the two-day basketball tourney on Friday.
Valencia went up against the Ambassador League’s runner-up Aquinas High School from San Bernardino, in the first of two games on the day, winning 84-65. In the second game, Valencia defeated Diamond Ranch by a similar margin, 87-60.
The Falcons matched the Vikings’ intensity, leading Valencia 46-41 at the half.
Without true big man and senior-to-be, Kevin Konrad, the Vikings have opted to employ a five-guard lineup so far during the summer to help with their up-tempo style of play.
“I think our tempo, we play very fast and are a lot smaller than last year and our only returning guy with size is Kevin Konrad, who is out for the entire summer,” said Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood. “We have been playing often times with five-guard lineups so we get up and down. We play fast, we shoot a lot more 3’s and we press a little bit more.”
Led by Hlywiak’s seven 3-pointers and a team-high 31 points, the Vikings got the senior leadership that they needed after the guard missed the first couple of games at the Maranatha High School’s Summer Block Party held last week.
“Everybody knows he can shoot the ball,” Bedgood said. “He’s actually shooting a better overall percentage from three and his release is a little bit quicker. He’s able to get shots off that he wasn’t able to get off last year and the leadership is where he has really improved.”
The Vikings also returned Eli Brill, who also missed the Maranatha Summer Block Party, and added speed and physicality to the guard rotation. Brill finished second on the team behind Hlywiak with 16 points.
“Eli is probably one of the fastest kids that I’ve ever coached,” Bedgood said. “He plays good defense for us and he’s just a strong physical guard, so he can post up. He does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score all the time, but when he’s scoring double figures, I think we are really, really thought to beat.”
Aquinas had no answer for the quickness and agility that the Vikings implored in the second, and managed to score about half of their first-half point total.
Playing back-to-back games, Valencia had a quick turnaround against Diamond Ranch and were quick to showcase their scoring ability, proving why they were such a highly-conditioned team.
“One of the staples of the program, since I’ve been there, is that we really hang our hats on our conditioning so we like to play fast and we feel our team, in most situations, is going to be the better-conditioned team on the floor,” Bedgood said.
“Those back-to-backs in the summer are great opportunities to challenge our guys. The things that we tell them is that it doesn’t matter that we are playing back-to-back, we are trying to score 100 in every game.”
Thanks to Valencia’s conditioning regimen and overall team fitness, five Valencia players finished with double-digit scoring as Grant Kim scored 14 points, Noah Veluzat had 13 points, Gabe Latkovich 10 points, Ryan Hoffman 11 points and Jake Hlywiak finished the game scoring a team-high 25 points.
“I think people are doubting us because we lost a lot,” Bedgood said. “We lost Kawakami, Trower and Assiff, but our kids are used to winning. Everyone that we have coming back has improved from last year, including Jake. Noah is getting a feel for the team now and he’s going to have a phenomenal year.
“This year I think our overall team shooting especially from the perimeter is better. Guys are unselfish, they move the ball, they share the ball, you have multiple guys that can shoot and are a little harder to scout, I think.”
Up with five minutes to go, the Vikings scored 87 points before finally running out of gas. But with such a big lead, they were still able to win by double digits.
The Vikings continue with two more games in the Damien High School End of Summer Shootout tomorrow taking on the Rancho Verde at 6:10 p.m. and host school and Damien, the Baseline League’s 2018-19 No. 3 team, at 8:30 p.m.
“This is a big, big challenge for us,” Bedgood said. “This is probably the biggest day for us summer-wise in a while because we get two really good programs in Damien and Rancho Verde.
“As you know we lost twice to Rancho Cucamonga, who is from that Baseline League, so really the championship runs through the IE (Inland Empire) so we are just trying to get our guys into the mode in playing these teams early and building confidence against them early so when the games really matter, we can close the gap on these teams a little bit.”
SCCS 76, Gardena Serra 56 (Game 1)
Caden Starr led the Cardinals with 27 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks and Kaleb Lowery finished with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and one block. Kyjuan Cannady recorded a double-double scoring 22 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks.
Canyon of Anaheim 62, SCCS 61 (Game 2)
Starr finished with a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with four assists and two blocks. Cannady followed with 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Lowery just missed his double-double with nine points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal.
The Cardinals have two more games tomorrow, beginning with St. John Bosco at 1:30 p.m. and Rancho Verde at 3:50.