By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
More than 220 boys’ basketball teams entered the 2022 Section 7 tournament to compete on one of high school basketball’s biggest stages. Attendance reached over 44,000 and included more than 500 college coaches watching and recruiting.
Valencia was one of few teams who went unbeaten over the weekend at State Farm Stadium in Arizona. The Vikings powered their way to four straight victories to win the LEO Foundation Bracket.
Valencia started off by winning a 67-62 close battle with Salpointe Catholic on Friday. The team gained huge momentum after downing the Lancers, who are coming off a state championship runner-up season.
“I don’t think we looked our best that first game,” said Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood, “but after beating a team of that caliber we thought we might have a shot at the bracket.”
The Vikings picked up huge momentum and started rolling. Valencia defeated Paraclete, 75-54, before beating Phoenix Christian Preparatory, 72-58, on the same day nearly 11 hours apart.
The Vikings capped off their run by winning the bracket championship game, 70-56, over Deer Valley on Sunday. The team was tired in their afternoon title game coming off their semi-final game that ended after midnight the night before.
Valencia assistant coach Greg Fontenette was also pivotal to the Vikings’ success. The assistant prepared game plans, thoroughly studied game film and made important in-game adjustments.
The team felt fortunate to even get the opportunity to enter the high-profile tournament after some lackluster years. The team has been in a rut since winning back-to-back Foothill League championships in 2019 and 2020.
However, in their small number of games so far this summer, the team is unbeaten dating back to their summer tournament at Chaminade.
Bedgood believes chemistry has been the catalyst for the team’s success. There are plenty of new faces on the team who are quickly learning how to play alongside one another.
“We’ve started a little better than I expected to but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” said Bedgood.
The head coach notes the winning as nothing but a team success. Key parts of that success are his senior Kai Davis showing great leadership, Mo Pitts playing strong defense and Bryce Bedgood rebounding well.
West Ranch will again be the team to beat in the Santa Clarita Valley next season as they’ll look to capture their third straight league title. The Wildcats were also in Arizona but struggled over the weekend, winning just one of their games in the Fiesta Bowl Bracket.
West Ranch suffered consecutive losses by about 30 points before they registered their sole win in a 56-47 victory over Mount Si.
Both teams have plenty of time to figure out the right pieces in their lineups. The Vikings will need to take care of West Ranch in league but will also look to play equally high-level non-league games.
“We want to play a first-class schedule,” said Bedgood. “We want to play the best teams we can play.”
For now, Valencia will gear up for the UCSB camp tournament, where both their varsity and junior varsity teams will be competing.
The Vikings will resume their busy summer action in Santa Barbara on Friday.