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Prep boys hoops: Calm under pressure

Valencia forces overtime before completing comeback

Posted: January 26, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 26, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Valencia Vikings boys basketball is a team that preaches chemistry and playing team ball.

It’s those characteristics that help under the type of pressure the Vikings faced down the stretch against the Saugus Centurions on Friday night at Saugus High.

Valencia’s Angel Cardenas drained a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation to tie it up, and his team ended up pulling ahead for a thrilling 57-53 win in overtime to complete the season sweep of Saugus.

“I try to keep them together,” said Valencia head coach Rocket Collins of his team dealing with pressure. “This team does anyway.”

Jaleel Howard came alive late for the Vikings (15-5 overall, 4-2 Foothill League) as he scored eight of his 14 points in overtime.

Cardenas finished with a game-high 19 points, but his late three was the highlight of his night.

It looked dire for Valencia when it trailed 44-40 with 32 seconds left in regulation.

Seconds later, after the Vikings made two free throws and Saugus made one, it was a 45-42 score with 10 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, Cardenas, who had already made two shots from beyond the arc in the game, found himself wide open in the corner.

“Coach set up a nice play,” Cardenas said. “I came off a triple screen. They were on me (at first) and they just left.”

When the shot went in, Saugus (12-11, 2-4) still had time to respond with the score tied 45-45. The Centurions took the ball down the court quickly, and Chris Lockwood put up a jumper from near the free-throw line at the buzzer.

The shot went in, but it was immediately waved off by an official, who called a charge on Lockwood.

Valencia’s Riley Honaker was the one in position.

“It was a bad call. .... Usually the ref doesn’t call that with half a second left,” said Lockwood, who scored 11 points.

Collins felt it was the right call, but admitted it was rare.

“It was a charge, but most referees don’t call it,” he said. “It was a gutsy call.”

Amir Mirtabatabaie led the Centurions with 12 points, including three big baskets in the fourth quarter.

Early on, Saugus led by as many as nine points, 17-8, before its lead had vanished early in the third quarter. Valencia stepped up its defensive pressure and went on an 8-2 run to start the second half, moving in front 31-28.

The Centurions again recovered and captured the lead again early in the fourth when Mirtabatabaie began to will his way into the post.

With both crowds at full throat, Saugus struggled to put the game away at the foul line, making 5-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter and 2-of-4 in overtime.

“We’ve got to learn how to keep our nerves settled and figure out how to keep it going in the second half,” Lockwood said.

 

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