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Valencia hoops beats Saugus with authority

Posted: January 14, 2014 9:24 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2014 9:24 p.m.
 

The Valencia Vikings boys basketball team just sent a message to the rest of the Foothill League.

Don’t forget about us.

Valencia said it all with a remarkably efficient performance on both ends of the court, leading to a Foothill League opening 88-65 win over the Saugus Centurions on Tuesday night at Saugus High.

“It’s the first game of league. It might put people on notice, but it doesn’t really mean anything until we get to the end,” said Vikings guard Jaleel Howard, who scored a game-high 20 points and added five steals in a stellar defensive effort.

Coming into the day, Hart and Canyon were the trendy picks for league frontrunner given their impressive preleague results.

Given Tuesday night’s performance, maybe Valencia (13-4 overall, 1-0 Foothill League) should be thrown into the conversation.

The Vikings used their press defense to trap and fluster the Centurions (9-10, 0-1) throughout the game, which often turned into easy fast-break points.

“That’s what started things,” said Valencia head coach Rocket Collins. “We’re small so we have to do it by trying to get our hands on the ball and get steals.”

And that worked brilliantly for Valencia following a relatively even first quarter, after which Saugus led 20-18.

In the second quarter, the Vikings outscored Saugus 23-7 as the turnovers began to pile up for the Centurions.

Saugus coughed up the ball 24 times in all.

“We weren’t ready to play this game,” said Saugus head coach Derek Ballard.

Centurions point guard Jacob Tobon led all scorers with 21 points while teammate Amir Mirtabatabaie added 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

But every time Saugus tried to put together a rally, Valencia had a big answer.

Saugus didn’t help itself by making 14-of-33 free-throw shots.

In addition to scoring consistently in transition, the Vikings benefitted from 10 made 3-pointers and an overall strong night of jump shooting.

Alex Sanchez made all four of his three-point attempts in the game and scored 15 points for Valencia. Malik McCowan, another key defender for the Vikings, added 15 points and four steals.

“That’s the way they’ve been playing all year, so hopefully they can keep it up,” Collins said.

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