Valencia forward Bryce Bedgood was denied nothing in the paint in Thursday night’s home state tournament win over the Grant Lancers.
Bedgood fought for every rebound, worked for tough buckets inside and ended his night with 24 points, 27 rebounds and three blocks.
“We’re just fired up,” Bedgood said. “We love the energy and we love playing at home. I was just ready to go. All week, I was preparing myself and getting ready. I just came in with a dog-mentality and played hard.”
The Vikings played a tight first half before exploding in the third quarter en route to an 82-65 win, and a trip to the Division 4 State Regional Semifinals.
The Vikings’ defense only improved in the first three quarters as they held the Lancers to fewer points than the previous period in that span. Valencia (24-10) rocketed in front in the third quarter as the team poured in 28 points, more than doubling Grant’s scoring output in the third.
The Division 1 City Champion Lancers were also held without a field goal for about four minutes in each second-half quarter, as the Vikings clogged passing lanes and closed out on Grant’s sharpshooters.
Six Lancers hit shots behind the arc. The team full of sharpshooters moved around the ball well and found open shots to keep the game tight throughout the first half.
“I thought at one point everything was going wrong for us,” Bedgood said. “They couldn’t have shot better in the first half and looked like they couldn’t miss. We were just talking about locking in as a team, nothing can faze us. They can make all their shots we can miss but we know, as a team, we’re still going to be in it.”
Dilyn Martin led Grant with 15 points and was one of three Lancers in double-digit scoring.
Valencia was forced to play most of the second half without scoring machine Mikah Ballew, who sat in foul trouble. Ballew still gave Grant (22-11) fits in the first half, where he racked up most of his 16 points.
Senior Kai Davis was also in foul trouble, but stepped up in Ballew’s absence. Davis finished the night with 17 points, seven assists and three rebounds. The senior is having the time of his young life on this playoff run, just a year after Valencia’s five-win season.
“We’re having a ton of fun,” Davis said. “It’s fun playing with some of my guys. A lot of these guys are my childhood friends. So it’s pretty cool to play with them on this run.”
Thursday’s Division 4 matchup was a physical battle with the Grant fans nearly stealing home court advantage. Needless to say, the Valencia gym was loud.
There were several hard fouls on both sides but just one technical after some bumping just before halftime between Davis and Grant’s Jaylen Jones. Ballew knocked down a pair of free throws to begin the second-half scoring frenzy.
The Lancer fans made their presence felt regardless of the score and cheered on their City Section champions until the final buzzer.
Bedgood thrived every minute of the game he played. The junior’s intensity comes from his dad, Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood, but Bryce’s talent speaks for itself.
“I have all that like intensity but I wasn’t as good as he is,” Bill said. “I’ve always been on him since he was little just by having a motor. So, he was a monster and we really, really needed him to step up because of the foul situation and even though he was in foul trouble tonight, he did a really great job.”
The junior’s work inside opened up shots for the Vikings, where Maurice Pitts and Jayden Ares readily delivered timely shots.
Ares finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Wright added seven points and a steal.
The Vikings still have a head of steam from their CIF run and have thrived in the challenge of the state tournament, with just a day off in between games so far.
“We’ve been taking it lightly in practice,” coach Bedgood said. “We’ve shortened practice times and we’re just trying to go for quality over quantity. I’m always just trying to gauge how bad they want it? Do they still want to play hard? Do they still want their season to continue and they keep passing all the tests and they just look like they just want to keep taking this thing as far as we can take it.”
The Vikings have now won 11 straight games and move on to the State Regional Semifinals, in which the team will host the Jordan Panthers (23-12).
Jordan has played a plethora of tough competition this year and may be a big test for the Vikings. The Panthers are the Southern Section’s 4A champs and have won seven in a row.
The Vikings and Panthers tip off on Saturday at Valencia at 7 p.m.