Valencia girls hoops wins fourth in a row; Saugus and Golden Valley win

Valencia's Leilani Manuel (35) receives the ball from teammate Audrey Field (11) while being pursued by Canyon's Lucy Collins (33). January 21, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Valencia girls basketball has rebounded from its Foothill League-opening loss to Saugus in a big way. Since that night, the Vikings have gone on to win the four following league games, most recently beating Canyon 49-25 on Tuesday night at home.

“We knew that we really had to pick it up if you want big things to happen,” said forward Mailey Ballard. “With our goal in mind of a league championship, we knew we had to pick it up today and play as a team.”

The Cowboys (15-8 overall, 2-3 in Foothill League) scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer from Genesis Gonzalez, but that was all the scoring Canyon would do in the first quarter.

Playing aggressively in the paint on both sides, the Vikings (14-8, 4-1) scored a minute into the game on a breakaway layup from Camille Pagkalinawan. Skylar Ingram scored from under the net a little over two minutes later to get Valencia the lead at 4-3.

Although Valencia is a team that is capable from range, Canyon’s man defense forced the Vikings to score the remainder of their points in the frame in the paint or under the net.

“I think we were surprised by their defense,” Valencia coach Kevin Honaker said. “They are traditionally a two-three defense and use their length and they play this man, so with that we kind of wanted to spread the court.

“I think we thought we had more quickness to the basket, so let’s bring them out and then see if we can go around him and get some easy baskets.”

Chidinma Okafor made her return to Canyon as she was out of the country for the last several games. Okafor had four points in the game, but played well despite getting off a plane the night before.

The Vikings were steady on defense as well, holding the Cowboys to six points total in the first half.

“Our practice plan for the past few days has been to just pack it in because we know they have quite a few tall girls,” Ballard said. “Just play aggressive and steal passes.”

Canyon began to wake up towards the end of the third quarter. Lucy Collins scored on a layup with two minutes left, then Okafor and Riley LaPlant added two points apiece to bring the score to 34-15.

In the fourth, Okafor had another basket and Aaliyah Garcia drained a 3-pointer in the final seconds for the Cowboys’ final points.

“I have to go and hit the books and figure it out because at this rate I think it’s on me,” said Canyon coach Jessica Haayer.

Valencia now turns its attention to Friday night for a road game at Saugus a 5 p.m., a game that could determine the Foothill League champion.

“We’re all feeling pretty strongly about that,” Ballard said. “We’re just going to come out, play together as a team and play our game.”

Canyon hosts West Ranch on Friday at 5 p.m. 

Saugus 56, Hart 36

The Centurions (18-4, 5-0) gained a 21-10 lead by halftime and Maliah Sourgose hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to spark the scoring. Sourgose added six steals and 10 points. Libbie McMahan led the Cents in scoring with 20 points, followed by Riley Phipps, who had 17.

Hart (10-9, 3-2) plays Golden Valley at home on Friday at 5 p.m.

Golden Valley 46, West Ranch 29

Milan Wright paced the Grizzlies with 11 points and three assists. Jada Williams had nine points and was five-for-five on free throws. Imani McGee had seven points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Golden Valley is 7-11 and 1-4, while West Ranch is 1-12 and 0-5.

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