Valencia Vikings boys’ basketball was in a tight battle until a fourth-quarter surge powered the team past the visiting Jordan Panthers in a state regional semifinal matchup Saturday.
Valencia defeated the Southern Section’s Division 4A champs, 89-80.
The Vikings (25-10) led by one going into the fourth quarter but skyrocketed in front on a 24-2 run to start the quarter, where they held Jordan (23-12) scoreless for nearly five minutes.
Both teams had incredible energy to start but Valencia’s intensity pushed the team even further in the fourth quarter behind senior Mikah Ballew’s game-high 26 points.
“We just continue to play our game every game,” Ballew said. “We know our shots are going to fall for us and we’re going to get stops eventually so we weren’t really trippin’ when they were hitting some really nice shots. We just stay consistent throughout the game. That’s our big thing this whole season, just staying consistent every game.”
The Division 4 State Regional Semifinals was back-and-forth for three quarters. Neither team took more than a one-possession lead until Vikings forward Bryce Bedgood’s offensive putback to push the score to 42-37 at the end of the first half.
Bedgood was again a force in the paint, compiling 24 points and 18 rebounds.
Jordan hit shots all over the court. The team possesses a ton of sharpshooters, who can also drive the ball inside and facilitate.
Senior Dennis Redmond led the Panthers with 21 points, while teammate Kane Young poured in 19 points. The pair also played hard defense and combined for 11 rebounds and five steals.
Valencia started sparking in the third quarter as the team went on a few smaller runs that Jordan eventually answered. Vikings senior Jayden Ares opened up a few of the runs with some solid shooting from behind the arc.
“We just started connecting,” Ares said. “We’ve got so much chemistry. That’s one thing I love about my team, we’ve got so much chemistry. We passed the ball, made that one extra pass and we just started playing together more.”
Ares finished the night with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals.
The senior guard has been a crucial part of Valencia’s success this season. Ares was part of the five-win team last year and nearly lost his love for the sport. Now, he’s on the verge of helping the Vikings win not only a CIF title, but also making a run for a state championship.
“Compared to last year, this is a blessing,” Ares said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every moment. I’m a senior so I’m just trying to absorb everything. Last year, I quit. I didn’t even think but I stopped playing for a while until I came back. Something happened and I came back so I’m just blessed to be here.”
The Panthers answered back with a 10-0 run of their own, due to a relentless full-court press. Jordan swung the momentum and forced a few turnovers, capped off by a Young steal and score to retie the game at 56-56.
However, Valencia’s surge and 30-point fourth quarter was too much to overcome. Ballew did most of his damage in the second half, where he scored the majority of his points but the team spread the scoring well as five Vikings scored over nine points.
“There’s a lot of close games with us in the first half but usually in the third teams are really gassed out and can’t really hang with us,” Ballew said. “So, we really prepare for those situations, stepping in the third to make those types of runs.”
Ballew has continued to show his consistency and he’s repeatedly been there in big games for Valencia.
“It’s just work,” Ballew said. “When you put the time in the gym and you work every day, your confidence will rise because of situations like this. I feel like I’ve worked my hardest to get to a situation like this and be prepared. When you don’t work you fail in those moments. So usually when I get in these moments, I’m working.”
Jordan managed to cut the lead down but it wasn’t enough as the Vikings will now head to the State Regional Finals for a rematch with St. Bonaventure.
The two will face off for a shot at a spot in the State Championship after Valencia took round one for the CIF crown.
Valencia hosts the St. Bonaventure Seraphs on Tuesday at 7 p.m.