First two weeks of boys hoops come with surprises

Santa Clarita basketball has brought a lot of surprises this season as the boys are now a third of the way through league competition.

One thing that has stayed consistent is Valencia’s dominance. Head coach Bill Bedgood said he was looking to lead his team to its second straight league title and so far, has not tripped up.

The Vikings are undefeated in the Foothill League so far. Two players also passed 1,000 career points in the early stages of league play. Noah Veluzat broke the milestone in the league opener against Saugus on Jan. 7 and Jake Hlywiak did the same in Tuesday’s game against West Ranch. 

“I worked really hard,” said Veluzat after Valencia’s game against Saugus. “To know that I passed 1,000, it’s pretty cool. I’d like to try and get 2,000 now. That’s my goal before high school ends.”

Valencia’s closest game was the league opener against Saugus, in which they won 62-59 on a last-minute steal from senior KJ Jones. They also secured two road victories against Hart 82-64 and West Ranch 89-56, both tied for second in league.

The Centurions, on the other hand, have had a much more unfortunate start to the season than expected. They lost their first two Foothill League games to Valencia 62-59 and West Ranch 75-69. 

Saugus got back on track Tuesday night against Golden Valley and won by nearly 60 points. A 102-44 victory more than made up for the hiccup at the start of league play. Adrian McIntyre has been able to stay consistent for the Centurions, though. He leads their offense in scoring and has had multiple games with 20 or more points.

Although Saugus had an unexpected rough start, the Grizzlies have received the worst of it. They surpassed their win total from last year already with five wins but have not had quite the same dream start they hoped for since entering league play.

The Golden Valley offense has had trouble getting going this season. Its defense has played well, minus one slip up at Saugus on Tuesday, but offense is what has kept the Grizzlies just behind their opponents. They are winless since entering league play and will go on to face the undefeated Vikings Friday night.

Going into league play, Canyon and Hart were looking equal. Both teams finished the pre-league season with a 10-8 record. However, Hart has been able to jump the Cowboys in the standings, especially after a hard-fought battle at Canyon High School Tuesday night. The Indians won 6-2.

Hart head coach Tom Kelly praised his perimeter shooters coming into league play. They have not disappointed. The Indians have been lights out from range to this point of the season, even against the toughest opponents. 

“When we move and share the ball, we’re very hard to defend,” Kelly said before league play began. “We have multiple guys that can shoot pass and handle the ball so we’re pretty solid on the perimeter.”

As for Canyon, head coach Sean DeLong claimed to have one of the hardest working teams in his tenure. He was not exaggerating. The Cowboys have been an immovable object on defense this season, shutting down any offense that tries to go inside on it.

“The kids come to practice every day and they are constantly trying to improve themselves,” DeLong said at the end of pre-league. “We are young and inexperienced, but they work really hard.”

Other coaches around the league have noticed the high level the Cowboys are playing at too.

“Canyon’s gotten a lot better of the last two years,” Kelly said after a game against the Cowboys on Jan. 14. “I give them a lot of credit. They compete every possession.”

Canyon’s game against Hart on Tuesday was one of the more significant ones around the valley as they were playing to break a tie with one another. Hart’s narrow 67-62 victory knocked the Cowboys a game back behind the Indians and West Ranch who are tied for second.

The Wildcats are in great position to sneak up on the rest of the Foothill League. West Ranch lost a lot of its star players from last year but managed to still have a solid start to the season with a 9-8 pre-league record. It is currently tied for second with Hart, both just a game back from Valencia in first. 

West Ranch had its shot at first Tuesday night, but fell to the Vikings. The Indians and Wildcats will battle Friday night to take sole possession of second in the league.

Outside of the Foothill League, Santa Clarita Christian is putting together a spectacular season. It is 13-5 to this point and has won its only league game so far. It has had landmark wins against Rancho Christian and Heritage Christian. SCCS also won the gold division in The Classic at Damien. The Cardinals may be the toughest team in the valley this season.

It’s too early to tell how the season will end, but with a quarter of league play in the books and only three weeks until the end of the season, fans are beginning to get a good idea of how things will shape up.

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