Before the season began, the Santa Clarita Valley International boys basketball team had never finished the regular season with a winning record, let alone a playoff appearance.
That all changed in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 5A Wildcard playoff match against Vasquez at Vasquez High School.
The Stallions won six straight games to close out the regular season and felt confident heading into the night. In the end, the Mustangs hit too many perimeter shots and outmuscled the visitors in a 74-33 victory.
Vasquez advances to the first round of CIF-SS Division 5A where Eastside Christian awaits them tomorrow at 7 p.m.
“The other team probably shot 60% from 3-point country,” said SCVi head coach Ken Erenberg. “Our plan was to really force them to shoot outside shots because we knew that they could drive. They were shooting from 25 and 26 feet out and banking them. We were doing what we wanted, the only issue was, I think we only finished with four of five fouls the entire game, they were very physical and we just didn’t match the physicality.”
SCVi (8-6 overall) was led by the lone senior on the roster Zaire Beane who finished with 15 points (five threes), four rebounds and four big blocks down the stretch.
Junior Dewain Robinson almost got a double-double and finished with eight points, six rebounds, two assists and a block in the loss.
Vasquez (11-11) saw what the Stallions’ defense was giving them to begin the game and shot lights out. They hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter and held a 31-2 lead after one quarter of play. Jacob Orrill finished the quarter with 14 points (four threes).
Robinson answered by scoring seven points-in-a-row to begin the second with a 3-pointer and two acrobatic layups inside the lane.
Sophomore Chase Patterson and junior Avery Davis, although small, played much bigger than they measure. The pair crashed the boards the entire night and weren’t shy about getting their knees dirty by diving on the floor for loose balls.
“Seeing Chase, who is probably the smallest guy on the court, I think he had four or five rebounds in the game, two of which were offensive, he’s been doing that all year for us,” Erenberg said of Patterson’s play. “He actually started the second half of the season for us and that was due to the fact that he plays lights out all the time. He only has one speed and that’s fast.”
The two infectious play rubbed off on the team as Beane hit two threes on back-to-back trips down the court for SCVi to close the gap to 41-15 with under five to play.
“He is my only senior and he is the only four-year varsity starter that we have, might be the only in school history,” Erenberg said of Beane. “Having Zaire on the court is always a threat and Dewain, his speed and ability to make passing plays and start plays has been an asset the entire season.”
Holding a double-digit lead in the second half, the Stallions tried to keep up with the home team and it showed in freshman Dominic Robinson’s hustle.
There was a sequence where he got an offensive rebound, put up a shot and missed. He could have sat there and sulked, but instead, he picked his head up and tracked the Vasquez player down and poked the ball away from him.
“He is a freshman and he averages five or six steal a game,” Erenberg said. “He’s just an ‘Energizer bunny’ too. That’s the joy that I have. Every player other than Zaire is coming back. We are going to be a very fast team next year.”
SCVi held Vasquez to just two points in the final quarter, but with a running clock couldn’t close the gap and fell.
“We put SCVi on the map this year,” Erenberg said. “No one has ever called us a playoff team or a winning team because we have never had a winning team. The fact that we won six straight to finish the regular season so strong, I think it speaks volumes about the future of the team.”