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Foothill League boys basketball: Vikes more than one

With Jackson out, Valencia survives 'Cats in overtime

Posted: January 11, 2011 10:28 p.m.
Updated: January 12, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

If Tuesday night’s game was any indication, the Foothill League is going to have plenty of drama this year in boys basketball.

West Ranch took Valencia down to the wire, rallying back from a substantial first-quarter deficit.

But the Lonnie Jackson-less Vikings pulled off a 59-57 victory in overtime to silence a wild crowd at West Ranch High School.

Valencia was aided by a 21-5 run to open the game, but the Wildcats were able to slowly chip away at the lead until finally closing the gap late in the fourth quarter.

“We just said, ‘Calm down, stay cool and win it overtime,’” said Valencia senior Max Sommer.

The Vikings won the game with Jackson sidelined with a foot injury, which head coach Rocket Collins said shouldn’t keep him out more than a couple weeks.

After Sommer’s free throws gave Valencia a 51-48 lead, West Ranch was left with one final possession with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth.

West Ranch guard Justin Ballenger received a pass on the left corner and heaved up a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie it at 51-51, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Slowly and steadily, the Vikings worked the ball inside and found their way to the line just enough to hold off the hot-shooting Wildcats.

Sommer scored a game-high 27 points, including a 9-of-11 performance from the charity stripe.

“It’s just the same thing we do in practice every day,” Sommer said. “You just have to tune out the crowd and hit the free throws.”

It was also Sommer who helped Valencia (10-5, 1-0) jump ahead in the first place, sinking a pair of threes in the first quarter.

Teammate Troy Hammel also shot lights out in the frame with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

“What beat us was the first quarter,” said West Ranch head coach Sean Legaux. “We didn’t play good defense and they torched our zone.”

The Wildcats eventually clamped down on defense, opening up the opportunity to play their high-tempo offense on the other end.

“They did a good job spreading their offense around and we were chasing them down,” Collins said, adding that his team may have been tired toward the end.

The comeback began with West Ranch forward Ako Kaluna, who returned after sitting out a week with a hip injury.

Though he often had to come out of the game with cramps, he led the Wildcats (12-5, 0-1) with 16 points and was a big rebounding presence all night.

“We’ve been down that much before, we just didn’t feel sorry for ourselves and came back,” said Ballenger, who scored 14 on the night.

In addition to the free throws, Sommer sunk a fadeaway jumper from just inside the 3-point line in the final minute of overtime, which gave his team a 56-54 lead at the time.

It was Valencia’s first made field goal since the 4:30 mark of the fourth quarter, but it survived the cold shooting and the absence of its leading scorer.

“We all know what we have to do when Lonnie (Jackson) is out,” Sommer said.

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