Valencia Vikings boys basketball won its fourth game in a row on Friday after defeating the visiting the Saugus Centurions at Valencia.
The Vikings took a sizable lead early in the game and while Saugus would tighten the gap, the team could never get back in striking distance as Valencia won, 67-53.
Valencia (11-9, 5-2) was led in scoring by senior Mikah Ballew with 20 points.
Ballew was one of several Vikings who caught fire early in the first quarter as it was raining threes on the basket, leading to a 24-10 lead.
Saugus (12-9, 5-2) found its rhythm in the second quarter. The team started finding open shots while senior Justin Perez knocked down several shots to sneak the Centurions back into the game.
Perez finished with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The senior’s boost led Saugus to its best offensive quarter of the game with 19 points while Valencia stumbled with just 13 points.
The Centurions continued to ride the momentum and took a quick 6-0 run early in the third quarter.
Saugus has strong outside shooting, but thrives on scoring inside. Junior forward Bryce Bedgood has been a block machine for Valencia this season and got his hands on a handful of Centurion interior shots.
Bedgood registered yet another double-double with 10 points, 14 rebounds and three stuffed shots.
A Perez layup midway through the fourth quarter cut the deficit to seven, forcing another Vikings’ timeout.
Valencia settled in and pulled away to victory. The Vikings repeatedly drilled open 3-point looks while senior Kai Davis had a stellar game, scoring and setting up buckets all over the court.
Davis tallied up 17 points, seven assists and five boards.
Valencia utilized nearly a dozen players on its roster. Vikings head coach Bill Bedgood believes his depth has been and was a difference maker in Friday’s battle.
“I just think the difference was like our tempo that we play at,” coach Bedgood said. “We really talked to them all week saying, ‘Keep running, keep running, keep running, [Saugus doesn’t] have the depth to kick in.’ And you see in the fourth quarter, they looked tired. Those shots that they were hitting in the first half aren’t falling. Their legs were probably tired. They don’t go as deep maybe as we do, right, but I have a tremendous amount of credit to them. I think their coach does a great job with that team and gets him to play hard and you just never know.”
Saugus was able to hold Valencia to just 52 points in its win over the Vikings back in November. It was nearly a season low for Valencia but the team felt better prepared for this game and is riding high into the second half of league play.
“I think that the guys were really prepared for the game,” said coach Bedgood. “Obviously the first game didn’t go the way we wanted. We kind of felt like we beat ourselves a little bit in that game. But, that was a long time ago on Nov. 29. And here we are playing again and in January. So, I thought we got a chance to get better between then and now. We’re not peaking too soon. I think we can continue to grow and continue to get better. But I love the effort and energy tonight. I love the intensity.”
Saugus senior Max Tengan poured in 26 points in round one to beat Valencia but was held to a solid 15 points on Friday.
“We just shot terribly,” said Centurion head coach Alfredo Manzano. “We just couldn’t shoot the ball and there’s no excuse. If we don’t shoot the ball well, we gotta do a lot of other things well. We don’t have the size like they do or the speed and athleticism. We got to do so many other things. We got beat on the rebounds. We got to beat some 50/50 balls, and we didn’t make shots. That’s a recipe for disaster for us.”
Both teams are now tied for second place in the Foothill League. Valencia will hope to clean up some offensive mishaps in its next game. The Vikings will be on the road at Castaic on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
“Sometimes we have some careless turnovers where we should be getting a better shot every single time and that’s part of it,” coach Bedgood said. “And help-side defense at times. We’re hesitant to go help our player. When we’re aggressive in the help-side, we’re a lot harder to score against instead of giving them whatever shot they want.”
Saugus will also be on the road Tuesday as the team heads to West Ranch at 5 p.m. The Centurions have a chance to really shake up the standings if they can knock off the Wildcats.
“We’re 5-2, [Valencia] is 5-2,” Manzano said. “Obviously West Ranch is undefeated, but we’re still in a good spot. Obviously we got a big game against West Ranch but we still feel like we could be OK. I’m always gonna believe in these guys. Now the thing is, hopefully they believe in themselves.”