Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 | 2 a.m.
This final score is sure deceiving.
The Valley Vikings basketball team beat host Las Vegas High 79-68 Friday, but it was anything but a comfortable double-digit victory in a battle of two undefeated Northeast League teams.
Las Vegas led by 12 points entering the fourth quarter and appeared well on its way to earning sole possession of first place. But Valley picked up the pace in the final eight minutes, using a full-court pressure to create several turnovers and easy baskets, and scoring 36 fourth-quarter points to grab the crucial win.
“Our kids believe they are going to win any game they play,” Valley coach Brian Farnsworth said. “They could play the top team in the nation and they think they are going to win it. Their confidence is high. Going into a tough place to play like Las Vegas (and winning) will do wonders for our confidence.”
Spencer Mathis had a game-high 31 points for the Vikings, including 13 points in the decisive fourth quarter. His 3-pointer with 5:27 remaining trimmed the Valley deficit to four points, 57-53. Las Vegas had just two points in the final three minutes — a testament to the Vikings’ pressure defense.
Las Vegas, after all, scored just 13 fourth-quarter points.
“They had us until the fourth quarter,” Mathis said. “But we put it into high gear and didn’t stop going.”
After being held in check most of the night, Valley used a 10-2 run to open the fourth quarter in getting back into the game. Daniel Young, who has signed to play at Cal-State Fullerton, was a non-factor offensively until the fourth quarter. During the scoring outburst, he soared for a monster dunk on an alley-oop, and less than a minute later, took to the air again to score on a tip-in.
Soon, Valley had all of the momentum.
“The difference was our defense,” Farnsworth said. “We picked up the pressure on defense and got some turnovers. We didn’t have to run any offense because we scored off our defense.”
Ryan Johnson, Valley’s senior guard, kept the Vikings competitive early. He scored their initial five points and finished with 24. He also played aggressive defense late in helping create a few turnovers.
“We didn’t run that until the fourth quarter and I knew it would give them trouble,” Mathis said of the press. “It worked just like it did in practice.”
Aziz Leeks scored 10 of his 19 points in the third quarter for Las Vegas, helping the Wildcats build its seven-point halftime lead to a 55-43 advantage. Re’Kwon Smith had a pair of 3-pointer for Las Vegas in finishing with 16 points, Juwan Major scored 11 points and Joshua Mayfield had eight.
“Vegas, to their credit, did a good job of running their offense and knocking down shots (early),” Farnsworth said.