Valencia boys basketball looks to cap an already historic season with first CIF State crown

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For some teams, a devastating loss can turn a season into a downward spiral.

For the Valencia boys basketball team, a 13-point loss to Foothill League rival West Ranch turned the season around in the best way possible.

Since that Jan. 20 defeat, the Vikings have gone 13-0, including a 5-0 run in the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs, in which their average margin of victory was 17.4 points.

The Vikings have carried that momentum into the CIF State Division IV playoffs, cruising their way through the Southern California bracket to a state championship date with Half Moon Bay at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento at noon on Saturday. The game will be televised live on Spectrum SportsNet.

“I think for these guys, they’ve been so easy to work with in the playoffs because I think they understand the level of how rare this is, how important it is, the historical relevance,” Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood said. “And we’re not afraid to talk about these things. I know some coaches say it’s just another game. We don’t approach it that way. Throughout this entire run, this mentality started with our second West Ranch loss. ‘We can’t lose another game.’ So they’ve been in this playoff mentality where it’s ‘win or go home’ every single game since then.”

Valencia coach Bill Bedgood holds up trophy after beating St. Bonaventure in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Like his players, Bedgood certainly knows the stakes well.

The veteran coach has experienced similar success in a career that’s spanned 24 years, but he hadn’t won a CIF-SS championship before this season. He had also never reached a state final.

Bedgood started coaching as a varsity assistant at Antelope Valley Christian, before taking over the reins at Bishop Alemany for three years.

His next stop was at Notre Dame, where he coached for 11 years and reached the CIF-SS semifinals once.

He took two years off before his next head coaching job so he could concentrate on helping his son Bryce develop as a player.

“I coached my whole career, Mission League, Alemany, Notre Dame, and then Bryce was maybe 7 or 8 years old and I was watching him play at the local park and rec league and he was really bad. He might have been the worst player on the team,” Bedgood said with a laugh. “I remember standing there watching him with my wife in all my Notre Dame coaching gear, and she goes, ‘For such a big-time coach your kid’s not any good.’ I took a couple years off and started training him and working with him. I felt like a fish out of water coaching 9 and 10 year old kids.”

While Bedgood felt out of place coaching young kids instead of high school student-athletes, admittedly he didn’t want to coach his son in high school.

He knew the toll it would take on both him and his family, as being a coach is hard enough without having your son along for the ride.

Valencia’s Bryce Bedgood #35 lays the ball up as St. Bonaventure’s Nico Macias #24 defends during their CIF State Division IV SoCal Regional final game at Valencia High School in Santa Clarita, Tuesday, Mar 7, 2023. Valencia defeated St. Bonaventure to advance to the finals. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“I never really wanted to coach him in high school,” he said. “My thought was I just want to get him ready and have him play for somebody else, just because I know the stress and the pressure of having to be both roles. It’s been a challenge. Right now it looks great because we’re having success, but last year when we’re 5-20 and we’re coming home and we’re both sad and my wife is pissed, it was a real challenge to get to this point. But the reward has been so incredibly great.”

Returning to coaching after the two-year hiatus, Bedgood took over the varsity program at Saugus so he could be closer to home, while still teaching at Notre Dame.

A teaching and coaching opportunity opened up at Valencia three years later, where Bedgood has resided for the last six years.

In his tenure, the Vikings have made the CIF semifinals twice, once in Division 2A in 2018 and again in 2019 in Division 2AA.

In 2020, Valencia went 24-4 in the regular season and won the Foothill League, but lost in the quarterfinals to Damien in Division 1.

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Kai Davis was a freshman on that 2020 team and is now a senior captain on a Vikings team that is one win away from a state title.

“Kai Davis for example, he’s gone through a 5-20 season. He’s seen both sides of it. It’s different now,” Bedgood said. “Those kids back then, I think they appreciated it but they didn’t realize how rare it was. I think when you’re at a level and drop down after COVID, there’s just a greater appreciation.

“I think they realize these opportunities don’t come by all the time and it’s rare you can get a group of high school kids to lock in on the moment and not think that every year is going to be easy.”

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