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Valencia earns payback for opening-night loss

Vikings gets back to .500 in Foothill League by jumping on Saugus early and pulling away in fourth

Posted: January 30, 2009 10:06 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2009 4:56 a.m.
Both Saugus and Valencia’s boys basketball teams entered Friday’s contest at Saugus needing a win to get to .500 in Foothill League play.

After 32 minutes there was little doubt which club had earned the right to pull even.

Valencia burst out to an early lead and pulled away in the fourth quarter to secure its third league win 78-58, while the Centurions lost for the third straight game.

“I think we’re getting better every night we play,” said Valencia head coach Rocket Collins. “We’ve been working on playing together as a team, and we’re improving on that. Tonight we played through whatever they brought and stayed patient on offense.”

Valencia’s patience on offense led to a 15-2 run to start the game behind eight points from sophomore guard Lonnie Jackson during the stretch. Jackson added five more points in the first quarter to tally 13 in opening eight minutes, helping the Vikings build a 21-8 cushion after one.

“They came out and hit those two quick threes and a lay up, and we kind of panicked,” said Saugus head coach Derek Ballard. “We got away from what we wanted to do tonight and what we do best.”

The Centurions (10-12, 2-4) continued to struggle offensively in the second quarter and trailed 35-19 at intermission.

“When we do the right things on the floor like we did, tonight good things are bound to happen,” Collins said. “I was really pleased with all of our starters tonight, and Kevin Rush was good off the bench.”

Jackson’s 29 points led the way for the Vikings (15-7, 3-3) as Saugus never got within less than seven points in the second half.

The Cents had a chance to pull closer, down 49-41 late in the third quarter, but Joey Fredrick missed the front end of a one-and-one and Desi Rodriguez missed a pair at the stripe.

Both teams were in the double bonus before the end of the third period, which made Saugus’ comeback attempt all the more difficult.

“When the game is called tight like it was tonight it’s tough to build a whole lot of momentum,” Ballard said. “The refs did a good job, but it made it harder for us to get into our game.”

Valencia found its game at the line, knocking down 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth, including 5-of-6 from Jackson in the first minute of the final frame as the Vikings march to the charity stripe helped lead to victory.

“Our one focus is on constantly getting better,” Collins said. “We’re getting that done, but we aren’t done yet.”

Mark Watanabe led the Centurions with 19 points.


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