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Defensive edge

Golden Valley stays in first place with nail-biting win over Vikings

Posted: January 23, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2009 4:56 a.m.

Golden Valley's Maverick Ahanmisi (13) jumps over Valencia players during the second half of Friday night's game played at Valencia High School. Golden Valley beat Valencia 69-67.

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The Golden Valley Grizzlies have heard the rap. They have to outscore everyone. They can't play defense.

It sure didn't look that way in the second half against Valencia.

Golden Valley held the Vikings to just 25 points on 38 percent shooting after halftime and rallied for a thrilling 69-67 win at Valencia High School.

Valencia had a chance to send the game to overtime when Brennan Bernardino was fouled with 0.2 seconds left, but he missed both free throws and Golden Valley held on thanks to its defense in the second half.

It was a significant departure from the first half, when Valencia's Lonnie Jackson played an excellent floor game and routinely found cutters for layups when he wasn't scoring himself.

The Grizzlies (19-1, 4-0) gave up 42 points and didn't keep pace offensively, so Golden Valley head coach Chris Printz kept it simple at halftime.

"I just challenged them," he said. "I felt there was a little selfishness that was creeping in, and that instead of accepting personal responsibility, we were trying to point the finger at somebody else. Along the way in a season, you're going to have moments that test you, and that's all we talked about at halftime."

It sure seemed to resonate among his players.

After trailing by nine at halftime, Golden Valley cut the lead to five late in the third quarter and then went on a 16-4 run to take a 63-56 lead with 2:15 remaining.

Valencia countered with a 6-2 run of its own, but following a timeout, Golden Valley's Chris White tossed an inbounds pass to Thornton for a layup. Valencia's Emmanuel Anumba responded with a basket, and after Golden Valley's Khatari Price split a pair of free throws, Jackson nailed a trey with 10 seconds left to bring Valencia within one at 68-67.

Golden Valley's Maverick Ahanmisi then hit 1-of-2 free throws before Bernardino went to the line.

Although the game ultimately came down to Bernardino's free throws, Valencia head coach Rocket Collins felt his team hindered itself in the second half.

"We didn't respond," he said. "It's not that we couldn't, we just didn't. There were other times where you could see something happened and we'd hang our heads instead of picking them up and saying, ‘Let's go.'"

Valencia (13-7, 1-3) came out with that attitude and made Golden Valley's potent offense a two-man show. Thornton and Trevor Wiseman scored 27 of Golden Valley's 33 points in the first half, and no other Grizzly scored until White hit a floater with three minutes left in the second quarter.

Once things got straightened out, Golden Valley showed what it can do.

"The second half showed that we can really play defense and pick it up when we need to," Thornton said.

Thornton and White also teamed up to limit the production of Jackson, who scored just 10 of his game-high 29 points in the second half.

"They were sending this thing called ‘fire' where they would send two guys at me, and I was ready for it," Jackson said. "In the second half I think I was forcing it too much and I could have passed the ball more."

Valencia was dealt a blow when Anumba picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. Anumba, along with Olatokunbo Oshodi, benefitted from Jackson's passing and converted high-percentage shots to help the Vikings build their lead.

"It was very big," Collins said of Anumba's foul trouble. "He needs to be on the floor. It's not that he has to score all the time. He does the dirty work, and he doesn't mind doing it."

Thornton also went to the bench with four fouls midway through the fourth quarter, and Wiseman fouled out with a little more than two minutes remaining.

"I just tried not to lighten up, but to be more cautious about my fouls and play smarter," Thornton said.

Thornton led Golden Valley with 28 points, while Wiseman added 16. Ahanmisi scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half, but his cold first half reflected Golden Valley's struggles.

"We had to value each possession," Printz said. "Instead of thinking about the score, we just had to think about each possession. We knew we had chances, we just had to take advantage of them."

Anumba and Oshodi each scored 12 points in support for Valencia.

"I think this will make us stronger," Jackson said.

jgulino@the-signal.com

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