Valencia boys hoops defense wears down West Ranch

Valencia’s Kevin Konrad won the opening tip and tipped the ball ahead to Junior Camacho for the easy breakaway layup in the battle for early Foothill League supremacy between West Ranch and Valencia boys basketball teams at West Ranch on Tuesday.

Taking an early lead, Valencia dictated the pace of play through tough collective team defense. The Vikings pestered the Wildcats, forcing 30 turnovers to become the only undefeated team in the Foothill League with an 89-56 win.

“We had high energy in the press, guys were playing hard, setting good traps without fouling. We were stealing off the ball, not reaching in our traps and I thought the guys did a great job of rotating and talking,” said Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood. “It wears you down and you could tell by the end of the game that they were worn out.”

The Vikings (15-4 overall, 3-0 Foothill League) didn’t waste any time setting up their full-court defense, trapping West Ranch ball-handlers at a moment’s notice, forcing two steals and a shot clock violation to take an early 9-0 lead.

Vikings sharpshooter Jake Hlywaik showcased his range and accuracy by hitting two three’s in the frame and finished with 21 points (three three’s) and five rebounds.

Slowing down the game, West Ranch’s Jonah El-Farra got to work inside the paint, battling Valencia 6-foot-6 center Kevin Konrad and forced things early, but was able to clean things up.

El-Farra finished with 12 points and five rebounds, while Konrad had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. 

“I told him this was going to be his toughest match,” said West Ranch head coach Jeff Bryant about the matchup. “He probably hasn’t seen a big man this year as good as him. He was rock solid. He forced a lot early, but it’s a learning process. I expect him to bounce back Friday night.”

Getting superb defensive play from Favour Princewill, the Vikings doubled the 14-point lead after one quarter to 28 points at the half, leading 53-25.

Princewill scored three points in the contest, but his five steals and three rebounds were the factors that set him apart from the field.

“It’s funny, we had a conversation at the beginning of the year,” Bedgood said about Princewill. “We knew this wasn’t going to be the easiest team to find minutes if you are a younger or first-year player, but the thing that I told him is to be an energy guy. 

“Dive for loose balls, take charges, get steals, get rebounds and he’s done a great job of doing everything that I’ve asked him to do. He’s becoming such a spark, people are excited about seeing him when he gets on the floor because he brings that energy. When we started to lose energy a little bit he kind of brought another surge of energy.”

Right before the half, Noah Veluzat showcased his connection with Hlywiak when he made a no-look pass, just above halfcourt, to Hlywiak for an elbow 3-pointer.

Veluzat had a game-high 26 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

“They really do have a bond, are friends off the court and look for each other on the floor,” Bedgood said. “They look for that extra pass because they want to see each other do well.”

West Ranch’s 6-foot-5 freshman, Andrew Meadow, looked determined to score and came out of the half aggressive by driving to the rim with his long strides.

Meadow scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds for the Wildcats.

Saugus 102, Golden Valley 44

Adrian McIntyre led Saugus (13-7 overall, 1-2 Foothill League) with a game-high 25 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while Amit Walia scored 16 points and Davis White had 14 points.

Tyler Clark had 15 points and three steals and Kyle Santiago 10 points, four assists and three steals.

Golden Valley (5-12, 0-3) was led by Dwawn Banks with 14 points.

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