Valencia Vikings boys’ basketball head coach Bill Bedgood couldn’t have ended his coaching career with a better statement. Bedgood capped off one of the biggest turnarounds in high school sports history with a state championship on Saturday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
The Vikings finished with just five wins last season but somehow, with mostly the same corps, reached the pinnacle of high school sports: a CIF and state championship.
Valencia blew by the Half Moon Bay Cougars in the title game 89-59, earning a second banner in its gym from this year alone.
The Vikings were led by senior Mikah Ballew with 25 points.
“It feels great, we worked so hard for this,” Ballew said in a phone interview. “We had a feeling we were going to get this far but to win like that was quite the accomplishment.”
The Cougars opened up strong and showed no signs of fear as a team expected to be dropped by double-digits. Half Moon Bay utilized some pristine passing, especially backdoor passes in a high scoring first quarter.
Passing was a huge part of the Cougars’ success as the team registered 25 assists on 34 field goals.
However, Half Moon Bay’s leading scorer Jaeden Hutchins exited the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Hutchins had a quick eight points but missed the rest of the game.
The Cougars also created a handful of second-chance opportunities with championship effort on the offensive glass.
However, the title game featured the same story as most of Valencia’s games, as the Vikings’ intensity outlasted their opponents yet again. The score was tied 20-20 before the state champs exploded in the second quarter. Valencia’s defense held Half Moon Bay to one field goal for over seven minutes of the period and the offense feasted.
Ballew hit shot after shot while point guard Kai Davis consistently broke inside for lay-ins.
“It feels great ending my career like this and coming out on top,” Davis said in a phone interview. “It’s a great honor to be on the best team in Valencia’s history when it comes to records and achievements. Being apart of a team like this and knowing how good we ended up is a great feeling, especially as the captain and point guard.”
Davis finished with 17 points in his high school career finale.
Most of the interior damage came from the Vikings’ catalyst, Bryce Bedgood. The junior delivered another monster performance in the paint, where he racked up most of his 22 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks.
Bryce was vital in Valencia’s success on both sides of the floor, as the Vikings’ offense improved its scoring output through the first three quarters and the defense held the Cougars under 15 points for the final three periods.
There’s a bit more cardio involved for the championship contending teams playing on an NBA regulation court. The Vikings felt well-conditioned and calm through what was almost a true-away game.
“Playing on an NBA floor was really tough,” Ballew said. “It’s a lot wider and longer but fortunately our court is a little bigger than most high school courts so we were more conditioned for it. Their fans were loud but we always stayed composed and did what we needed to do.”
Ballew and Davis are two of six Viking seniors who ended their high school careers on top.
“As a senior, finishing it all out as a CIF and state champion, I couldn’t write a better story than that,” Ballew said. “I’m grateful to have come to a program that wasn’t as successful last year, but going on a 20-1 win streak, it’s been quite the year.”
Davis is a four-year varsity player, who had plenty of moments of thinking the game he was playing in could’ve been his last.
“It was definitely a rigorous road to get to this point,” Davis said. “I’ve learned so many lessons not just about basketball but just in general because of this journey. The season last year really molded us into what we are now. Most people don’t know what it feels like to only win five games so we definitely had a chip on our shoulder this year. The preparation from coach Bedgood and the whole coaching staff has been great on this journey.”
Coach Bedgood has coached Bryce as long as he can remember but will now focus on being a father.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Bill said in his CIF press conference. “It’s been a long run. I’ve been doing this for 24 years. I think a lot of people assumed I would finish his high school career as the coach but what’s kind of more important to me is being a dad. I think being a dad makes you a better coach but I don’t know if being a coach makes you a better dad.”
The Vikings spent most of their state playoff run at home but just looked just as comfortable playing on an NBA court, where a handful of players will aim to return to in one way or another.
Valencia matched its playoff-high of 89 points for the third time on Saturday and finished the postseason with a 20.6 average margin of victory.
Ballew appeared to be the missing ingredient for the team’s success. The Vikings aimed for perfection all year and may have reached the mark in their final game together.
“It’s still kinda surreal, but when you put in as much work as we have it was kind of expected,” Ballew. “We have a great group of guys, our chemistry is unmatched, we do everything together. I love this group of guys, it’s a family. We’ve been trying to reach perfection and I think we got close to it.”