Hart’s Strong hits game-tying basket in regulation, go-ahead bucket in OT to lead Indians to 77-74 road win
Hart Indians senior Deven Strong simply could not be stopped in Tuesday’s Foothill League road opener against the Valencia Vikings.
The guard scored 37 points to lead the Indians (3-3, 1-0) to a 77-74 overtime victory over the Vikings (3-3, 0-1), including the game-tying basket just before the regulation buzzer and the go-ahead bucket with less than a minute to go in the overtime period.
“We just watched film and stuck to the game plan,” Strong said. “Luckily, my guys, they trust me, you know, they still go to work with me. I take a lot of shots, but they still, no matter what, they’re still fighting, they’re still playing defense, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Strong and Valencia senior Bryce Bedgood were carrying the load of the scoring for their respective teams. Bedgood had 41 points before fouling out with just under two minutes to go in overtime on a charge. The Vikings pulled ahead at 74-72 just after but couldn’t stay ahead.
Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood was excited for his son but wanted to see a more balanced offense from his team.
“On one end, I’m super excited for him, but just kind of wishing we had a little bit more balance,” coach Bedgood said. “We have a lot of guys that look like they’re auditioning to be that hero, but we’re gonna get better.”
Hart came out firing in the first quarter, going up by as much as nine in the opening frame. The Vikings stayed within reach throughout the first half and took their first lead with just over two minutes to play in the first half at 31-30 on a Bryce Bedgood layup.
Hart ended up taking a 38-36 lead into the break.
Coach Bedgood could tell that his players were still in early-season form in what was Valencia’s first home game of the season.
“The first home game is always tough,” coach Bedgood said. “And I feel like in the first half, I could just see it. My biggest fear is like, we’re going to come out and everyone’s going to take bad shots. And that’s what it was.”
The second half saw Strong take over. He scored 24 of his points in the second half, many of them coming from shots from seemingly impossible angles.
Hart head coach Tom Kelly said he isn’t surprised by that and is more impressed with Strong’s willingness to take blows on defense and stay in the game. Kelly said he wasn’t positive, but was pretty sure that Strong played all 36 minutes on Tuesday.
“Obviously, he does so much for us, handles the ball, he scores,” Kelly said. “But he also is leading us in charges taken. So, he’s sacrificing his body. He’s trying to go to the basket to get fouls called for him. He’s just a complete basketball player.”
Strong went on to score six of the Indians’ eight points in overtime.
Senior Joe Montes added six points and four assists while senior Jack Oldhafer made a trio of threes on his way to 13 points for Hart. Junior Craig Irons, a 7-footer who joined the team this year, had 12 points.
Valencia saw senior Jacob Mazy add 10 points with a couple makes from beyond the arc. Senior Ashton Carraway had seven points with two 3-pointers.
Both Kelly and Strong are confident that this was not a one-off and that the Indians can contend for the Foothill League title.
“I think the league is wide open,” Kelly said. “I know West Ranch is super talented, but the league is wide open and I think anybody can beat anybody. That’s the fun of our league.”
For Strong, the win is also a reminder of how tight the league can be this year. He recalled seeing a prediction that had Hart finishing last in the league and Valencia taking second.
“It just shows that we could play,” Strong said. “I saw a prediction, they had us in last place for this year and they had Valencia in second. We came out here, we beat the second-place prediction.”
Hart is set to take on Leuzinger (1-0) in tournament play on Friday before hosting Golden Valley (4-2, 0-0) Tuesday in the Indians’ return to Foothill League play.
Valencia is set to stay at home on Friday as the Vikings host Saugus (4-1, 1-0). Coach Bedgood wasn’t pleased with a loss in the league opener, but he knows that a loss early in the season can help galvanize a team.
“I’m glad it happened because we’ve been trying to explain to them and impress upon them that shot selection is important, and not everybody is equal,” coach Bedgood said. “Guys have to make good decisions and, especially in close games and critical times, the ball has to find your best players. And they’re doing it, we’re not doing it, so they deserve to win.”