Valencia boys hoops subdues Crespi

Valencia's Noah Veluzat (13) shoots against Crespi defender Ke Anuluoha (55) at Valencia on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Valencia boys basketball team beat Crespi 78-65 on Friday night in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 boys basketball tournament at home.

The win had a little extra meaning for Vikings senior Kevin Jones, who had transferred into Valencia from Crespi.

“I’ve always wanted to get revenge,” said Jones. “I mean, even though I still have the love and passion for that school, I always wanted to get them back and get to play the coaches I’ve been with the last three years. And then once I left it’s just like I was ready for something new.”

Valencia’s Kevin Jones goes up for a shot in a game against Crespi on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Vikings (24-5 overall) got out to a clumsy start against Jones’ former school. While the Celts were shooting silky 3-pointers and even threw down a dunk, the Vikes had to fight for every point they scored.

Kevin Konrad was able to tie the game at 9-9 with a layup, then Eli Brill later tied it at 11-11 on a putback, but Crespi (17-13) was able to make two free throws to capture the lead at the end of the first quarter.

“I mean the mindset there was just keep playing, keep playing hard,” Jones said. “We just needed to execute more we need to run our place a little bit smoother. I feel like in the first half we weren’t really smooth we weren’t moving the ball on offense. I think our defense was keeping us in the game and our rebounding.”

The second quarter was more of the same and Valencia was once again able to tie it late. With three minutes to go in the frame, Jones knocked in a shot to tie it at 23-23. Crespi countered with two points of its own, but Brill hit a jumper to tie it at 25-25.

Valencia’s Jake Hlywiak (2) aims a 3-pointer against Crespi at Valencia on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Jake Hlywiak scored two points in the paint to give the Vikings a 27-15 lead headed into the halftime break.

Hlywiak and Konrad paced the team in scoring with the former logging 16 points and the latter 19.

“I mean Kevin’s our big. He’s always in the box … always grabbing rebounds, always trying to make the right decision,” Jones said. “Jake’s our shooter, basically one of our leaders. He’s always trying to keep us together making sure he makes the right play.”

Valencia clung to the lead on the other side of halftime, then loosened its grip and began to play more relaxed as the second half went on.

A Camacho trey put Valencia up, 35-31, with 4:40 left in the third quarter and the Celts didn’t have a deficit so small for the rest of the night.

The Vikings were able to capitalize on free throw opportunities in the fourth quarter. Hlywiak was even able to add four points after a technical.

Valencia now moves on to the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals and will play Damien, which beat Brentwood on Friday night, on Tuesday.

“With a good win like this, I feel like we can keep the momentum going just keep grinding every day until its game time,” Jones said.

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