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Valencia boys basketball outlasts St. Bonaventure to win first-ever CIF crown

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MANHATTAN BEACH — They’ve been close before. They’ve made long playoff runs before.

But on Saturday at Mira Costa High School, the Valencia boys basketball team finally broke through the last barrier it hadn’t been able to break in program history.

The Vikings held on to a slim lead in a high-pressure fourth quarter to defeat St. Bonaventure 65-62 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA final for their first section title.

Valencia’s boys basketball team celebrates after winning the CIF-SS Division 4AA title Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia players celebrate their 65-62 win over St. Bonaventure in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia guard Jayden Ares celebrates at the end of its victory over St. Bonaventure in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia guard Mikah Ballew shoots a tough shot over St. Bonaventure center Dylan Benner in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia center Bryce Bedgood blocks a shot by St. Bonaventure’s Kaden Glover in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia guard Jacob Mazy tries to grab the ball away from two St. Bonaventure players in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia center Bryce Bedgood is hit on his arm as he tries to shoot against St. Bonaventure in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia’s Bryce Bedgood shoots from outside against St. Bonaventure in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

St. Bonaventure center Dylan Benner fights of players for rebound. Valencia vs. St. Bonaventure CIFSS D4AA basketball final Saturday February 25, 2023 (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia’s Mikah Ballew makes a 3-pointer against St. Bonaventure in the CIF-SS Division 4AA boys basketball final Saturday, February 25, 2023. (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

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)

St. Bonaventure coach Wlfgang Wood hugs players Nate Loomis and Nico Macias. Valencia vs. St. Bonaventure CIFSS D4AA basketball final Saturday February 25, 2023 (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia guard Mikah Ballew throws head fake under the glass. Valencia vs. St. Bonaventure CIFSS D4AA basketball final Saturday February 25, 2023 (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

Valencia’s Bryce Bedgood goes in for reverse layup. Valencia vs. St. Bonaventure CIFSS D4AA basketball final Saturday February 25, 2023 (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

St. Bonaventure guard Donald Clark is swarmed by Valencia’s Kai Davis and Bryce Bedgood. Valencia vs. St. Bonaventure CIFSS D4AA basketball final Saturday February 25, 2023 (Photo by Robert Casillas, Contributing Photographer)

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“There’s been so many good players that have played here and so many times they have been on the cusp, it just took that one team to finish it,” Valencia head coach Bill Bedgood said. “It felt like we kind of kept running out of gas in the semifinals, but I just knew that this was the team to break through because of the confidence. It was a matter of a time before someone broke through.”

“I feel like we’ve been through more than most teams have in two years,” senior Kai Davis said. We won Section 7, won all the tournaments, had hard practices, hard workouts, so I’m not surprised that we got to this point because it was in due time that something like this had to happen.”

While the final score indicated a tight game, Valencia dictated the pace from the start.

The Vikings’ transition game kept the Seraphs on their heels, giving them little time to set up their defense. This gave Davis and Mikah Ballew openings to the paint, allowing for easy opportunities at the basket or trips to the free throw line after drawing a foul.

Valencia hangs on 65-62. Nico Macias had a good look at the buzzer with a chance to send the game to OT @Tarek_Fattal pic.twitter.com/RhQYgYzglW

— Dan Lovi (@LoviSports) February 25, 2023

The Vikings made 14 of 16 free throws, an advantage Bedgood said instilled more confidence in his team.

“This is the best free throw shooting team I’ve ever coached,” he said. “It’s huge in close games. If we get to a free throw shooting game, we definitely like our chances.”

Ballew and Davis were both perfect from the line, going 6-for-6 and 5-for-5, respectively. Ballew finished with a game-high 30 points, three assists and three steals. Davis added nine points, six rebounds and five assists.

Junior big man Bryce Bedgood had a few huge offensive plays himself, including a monster jam that brought the crowd to its feet, but it was his presence on the defensive end that helped keep St. Bonaventure’s leading scorer Dylan Benner at bay.

Kai Davis gives Valencia a 31-22 lead over St. Bonaventure going into halftime of the D4AA boys final @Tarek_Fattal pic.twitter.com/Np5yJUqxxZ

— Dan Lovi (@LoviSports) February 25, 2023

Bedgood finished with five blocks and 11 rebounds, eight of them on the defensive glass, and added 12 points to complete the double-double.

Benner finished with a team-high 18 points, but nothing came easy for the Seraphs center, who made just 5 of 13 field goal attempts.

“We watched hours and hours of film and we realized the way they scored is with the big guy Dylan, so I had to take pride in my assignment to win this game,” Bedgood said. “I really had to step up as a defender. The offense is going to come but to win a big game like this I’m going to have to contribute with defensive rebounds and big stops.”

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Despite the Vikings controlling the majority of the game, the Seraphs continued to narrow the gap in the fourth quarter. But every time the Seraphs inched closer, the Vikings put a stop to their run with a timely 3-pointer or a trip to the free throw line.

Ballew hit big shot after big shot to keep his team ahead, sealing the win after the game-tying 3-point attempt by Nico Macias didn’t connect.

“To their credit, St. Bonnie made quite a few runs. They made a run all the way to the end of the game,” Bedgood said. “I thought we started the game better and really controlled the game the whole way. I’m glad that we finished and I’m glad that last shot didn’t go in.”

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