By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The Valencia Vikings won the 2020 Foothill League title. The Canyon Cowboys have not won the league title since 2012 and have only made two top-three finishes in the past 10 seasons.
The Cowboys had much to prove Friday night against the Vikings and with the strong start they are having they are making a case for themselves why they deserve to be in the conversation with the league’s best.
The 60-48 win against the Vikings is just another step for the Cowboys to change the culture of the program, their main goal coming into the 2022 season.
*Valencia is a great program, and they always have been, so they have had our respect and attention,” said Cowboys head coach Ali Monfared. “In a league game, everything is different. They have good coaches and players, but ultimately our guys made plays in the end to help us seal a great win.”
The Cowboys and Vikings struggled to find their groove in a tightly contested 29-24 first-half score due to the physicality and athletic ability put on display in the paint. Both the Cowboys and Vikings scored 14 second-chance points combined in the first half alone.
The bright spot belongs to the Cowboys’ Matt Heyne, who accounted for 16 of the Cowboys’ 29 points in the first half. Heyne would finish the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“We game planned all week and watched film every day and did what we were supposed to do,” said Heyne. “If the guys are open, they were open and we had our guys hitting open shots. Brandon Ritter came off the bench and hit clutch threes for us. We’re super confident at 8-3 and we want to keep it going.”
Coming out of halftime, the Vikings made their push and took the lead for the first time in the game, going up 34-32 midway through the third quarter. Moments later the Cowboys would score and take the lead away from the Vikings for the rest of the game.
The Vikings’ comeback was sparked by Evan Payne and Balie Natchie, who each led the team with 14 points apiece.
“We always come out and try to play our hardest,” said Payne. “We just need to come out harder next game and forget about the past. In the locker room, coach told us to keep doing the little things right and things will fall in the right place. All we can do now is work harder towards the future.”
Key offensive rebounds and forced turnovers helped spark the Cowboys’ run despite Heyne being held to nine points in the second half. Ritter and Brody Baumgartner each finished with nine points, with Baumgartner also hauling in six boards.
The Cowboys had an all-around game holding the Vikings to just eight fourth-quarter points, but the engine for the Cowboys in the second half was Brandon Boldroff, who finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Boldroff would do his damage scoring off offensive rebounds and fast breaks.
“I saw we gave up a ton of offensive boards in the first half, but the second half we started getting our rebounds and playing defense,” said Boldroff. “Coach had the trust to keep me in the game despite having four fouls. He feels I might be one of the best defenders on the team and I feel the same way. With that trust from coach, I didn’t think I would get fouled out.”
The Vikings stayed relentless, but the Cowboys prevailed in the end. The Cowboys will look to keep their momentum going in a tournament match against Blair on Thursday while the Vikings look to bounce back in a non-league game against Oxnard.
“I thought we competed early in the game but we ran out of gas early in the second half,” said Vikings head coach Bill Bedgood. “They’re a big physical and well coached team so they eventually got us to break down. I’m proud that our guys battled.”