After a heartbreaking loss in the first go with Hart Indians boys’ basketball, the Valencia Vikings overcame adversity and won on the road.
The Vikings won the Foothill League battle, 69-57, on Friday, and did so without McDonald’s All-American nominee Bryce Bedgood and shooting guard Jacob Michel-Zavala for a chunk of the second half.
Michel-Zavala fouled out but Bedgood was pulled late in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. Controversy ensued when Bedgood tried to check back in but the official scorebook had the senior at five fouls, to the Vikings’ book that had four.
The two leading scorers for the Vikings (8-11, 3-3) were out against a team that had already taken them down once but, against all odds, Valencia fought back for the win.
Valencia’s No. 1 task: slow down Hart guard Deven Strong, who killed the Vikes with 37 points in two teams’ first meeting this season.
“I think we contained Deven better. He’s a huge part of what they did,” Vikings coach Bill Bedgood said in a phone interview on Saturday. “Hart shot the ball well in the first game. They were really motivated to beat us. They played hard, made huge plays, and we made too many errors. It was a comedy of errors for us and it kind of looked that way for Hart last night. They were probably the hungrier team the first time, we were hungrier last night.”
Valencia’s hunger was quenched by Bryce Bedgood’s double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, despite fouling out.
Senior Ashton Carraway brought in key points to win the game, Tyler Miller pulled down some key rebounds opposite Hart 7-footer Craig Irons, and Mason Grant moved the ball well through the Indians’ press, while Jacob Mazy and Tanner Stradley hit some big shots in the second half.
Strong still led the Indians (12-9, 3-4) with 18 points and three steals. Gavin Heredia and Joe Montes also both added 10 points in the loss.
The game was tight throughout until Valencia pulled away late. Hart coach Tom Kelly saw his team miss interior and free throw shots that aided in the Vikes’ takeover.
“We had a great start, but in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, we missed too many free throws and inside shots,” Kelly said in a phone interview. “We played hard, we were competitive and everyone gave everything they had. Missing free throws and paint shots, that will always hurt you.”
Hart started off strong, winning the first quarter 15-10, and battled in a one-possession game until the free throw struggles caught up with the Indians.
Hart shot just over 72% from the charity stripe.
Valencia entered the matchup coming off its league bye last Tuesday. The extra time off helped snap a two-game skid for the reigning CIF Division 4AA champions, who are fighting for their playoff lives right now.
“I felt like we were really prepared for that game,” coach Bedgood said. “We had a lot of extra days off with the bye. The coaching staff did a good job giving the guys a solid game plan and we had a lot of time to work on things we wanted to do. Our kids were a little nervous to start because every game is like a playoff right now. It’s kind of similar to last year. We can’t afford to have any off nights.”
The Vikings had a similar start last year and were a few games under .500 before finishing the regular season 10-1. Coach Bedgood believes his team his finally showing signs that his CIF and state champs displayed last season.
“We’re finally connected,” the Vikings coach said. “I think some of the things we’ve gone through in the first round of league has bonded these guys. For the first time it feels like we’re all connected. Last year we felt it a little bit earlier and it’s a sign you can do something special. I feel confident we can have a deep second-half push and hopefully a playoff run.”
Hart has now lost three straight games but Kelly still believes the team is on the right track. The race to the finish will be a tight one but Hart may have the makings to make the postseason for the second straight year.
“I think it’s a sprint to the finish for everybody,” Kelly said. “It comes down to taking care of the ball, rebounding and free throws.”
Both teams return to Foothill League play on Friday at 6:30 p.m. as Hart hits the road to Golden Valley while Valencia heads home to host Castaic.