Valencia Vikings’ boys basketball continues to surge down the final stretch of the season as the team took down the hosting Canyon Cowboys on Friday.
The Vikings dominated on defense thanks to a well-executed full-court press.
The defense led to numerous steals and transition points in Valencia’s 65-39 win.
Valencia (13-11, 7-4) was led on the interior by 6-foot, 10-inch forward Bryce Bedgood with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Canyon (15-10, 4-6) worked through Valencia’s defense early and got off to a solid 7-0 start. However, eventually the press started wreaking havoc and led to a 14-0 Valencia run.
The Vikings kept the energy through the second quarter and held the Cowboys without a field goal for nearly 10 straight minutes of play in the first half.
Valencia assistant coach Greg Fontenette has seen his team’s defense come a long way this season.
“We’ve been taking a lot of pride in our defense,” Fontenette said. “I think in the first half of league, we just felt kind of slow, we were kind of out of character a little bit, so coming into the second half of league we just really focused on just defensive pressure and guys rotating. We’re really big on guys communicating with each other … I think they’re starting to see that it works. So now they’re bought in and you’re gonna see from game to game it’s just starting to get a little cleaner, a little tighter and the execution is getting a little better now.”
Canyon scoring machine Eric Kubel had five early points in the 7-0 start but was hounded defensively and unable to find a bucket until late in the third quarter. Kubel kept fighting through the defense and still put up 20 points.
Cowboys junior Chigozie Osuji also played well all over the court as he tallied seven points, six rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.
Valencia shooting guard Jacob Michel-Zavala made an impact in the third quarter, when he scored nine of his 11 points to further extend the team’s lead.
The Vikings didn’t get a ton of crucial scoring from their bench but the rotation players still made an impact on the game. Junior Dabe Princewill was one of several Vikes to come off the bench and add some key rebounds, steals and points.
The junior finished the day with four points, six rebounds and three steals.
“We’re actually pretty deep,” Fontenette said. “It took us a while to kind of figure out where to place guys earlier in the season. Now that we know how to rotate guys and we found their strengths. It’s been very easy for us to start rotating guys.
Canyon struggled to settle in and was scrambling for open looks throughout the contest.
“Valencia put a lot of pressure on us and kind of sped us up,” said Cowboys coach Ali Monfared. “It’s just something that we’re working on. I’m just gonna give Valencia credit, they played hard tonight and they did a good job.”
The win officially clinches a playoff spot for the Vikings, who have several key returners from last season’s CIF and state champion team.
Fontenette will aim to keep his guys grounded and grinding every day for a shot at another postseason run.
Canyon still has a solid shot at the postseason as well. The Cowboys will have a couple more league games that can push the team into the playoffs but the team’s overall record gives Canyon a strong at-large bid.
Monfared will hope to keep seeing things circled in practice translate to game time as he aims to put Canyon in the playoffs for the third straight year.
“I’m hoping the things that we do have practice show up in the games,” Monfared said. “We do a lot of execution pressure drills against pressure because it’s something we need to work on. And there’s still times in the game where we’re inconsistent. So we need to be more consistent with our habits and at the end of the day, we’re just gonna come tomorrow, have a good practice and just try to be better. We have two more opportunities next week to try to just be better.”
Both teams return to Foothill League action on Tuesday, as Canyon hosts Castaic while Valencia finishes off the regular season at Golden Valley. Both games tip off at 6:30 p.m.