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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW Valley Christian ramps up its defense, blasts Bellflower for eighth straight win

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

Editor’s note: Any scheduled games for the upcoming week are subject to being cancelled or postponed after time of press due to Covid reasons/protocols.

A new head coach, four starters coming back from last season’s team plus one other returning player and three newcomers for most of the season is what was staring in the eyes of the Valley Christian High boys basketball team. Add another player who recently became transfer eligible and now the Defenders can’t seem to lose.

V.C. smashed Bellflower High 67-27 last Saturday for its eighth straight win in a game that was more defense than offense. Yes, the Defenders reached the 60-point mark for the 11th time in 17 games, but the defense held an opponent to under 40 points for the fifth time in the last seven games.

“We’ve been going through the whole season with pretty much eight players,” said V.C. first-year head coach Tom Lewis. “We just got [junior] Nick [Bozanic] eligible; he had a 30-day sit-out period because he transferred. So, Nick just got eligible on [Dec.] 26.”

It didn’t take long for V.C. to put the game away as it scored the first seven points within the first 2:38 of the game. Even when Lewis called a timeout with 3:39 left in the opening quarter, up 9-5, Bellflower had attempted four shots from the field and had turned the ball over five times, which would be a recurring theme.

The Buccaneers would turn the ball over six times in each of the first two quarters while attempting 19 shots from the field. Meanwhile, the Defenders were parlaying their stellar defense into a solid offensive game as senior Nathan Medina had 12 points and five rebounds in the half while freshman Michael Wright added 10 points on four of five shooting with six boards and a pair of blocks before halftime.

“We like to play pressure defense, so sometimes we give up a lot of fouls because we’re up on people and you get body contact,” Lewis said. “With those extra guys on the bench, we need the fouls to play the kind of style we like.”

With V.C. up 32-17 at the half, the defense would only get better in the third quarter, forcing 11 more turnovers and limiting the Bucs to only four shot attempts, the first of which did not come until the 3:49 mark. Medina had all five of his steals in the stanza and the Defenders had eight of their 21 steals in the quarter. Offensively, V.C. scored 23 points in the third quarter on seven of 12 field goal shooting and 70 percent from the charity stripe.

“We have a system in play and part of our system is to take people out of their offense,” Lewis said. “Because of that, we try to create one on one opportunities with the other team, and we try to contain them. We don’t let them in their offense and then they panic and sometimes throw the ball all over the place if we put enough pressure on the ball.”

Medina led everyone with 22 points, the eighth straight game in which he has scored at least 20 points, while sophomore Jacob Bayla added 15 points, four steals, three rebounds and three assists. Wright posted a career-high 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds and sophomore Myles Harvey pitched in with nine points and five steals.

“One of the things I like about Mike, and he’s been growing as the season goes on, is he’s getting more and more consistent,” Lewis said. “The other night, he had a phenomenal job on the Maranatha big guy. He’s just been getting more consistent on both ends of the court. He has a lot to give, and I’m excited about him, especially since he’s a sophomore.”

As a team, the Defenders were 22 of 46 from the field and missed three of 20 free throws, had 24 rebounds, 21 steals and 19 assists. V.C., which had an impressive 52-49 win at Maranatha High the night before for its first road win at Maranatha since Jan. 8, 2002, a 59-50 overtime victory. V.C. then fell to Whittier Christian High 40-37 this past Wednesday to drop to 12-6 overall, 1-1 in league action. The Defenders are scheduled to host Village Christian High tonight, participate in the Village Christian Showcase on Saturday, face Palisades High on Monday in the St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy MLK Showcase and host Heritage Christian High on Tuesday.

“As a coach, we always hope we’re hitting our peak,” Lewis said. “But it doesn’t mean I still stay up at night wondering if we are. I feel they have a pretty good understanding of the way we play, but you never know. On any given night, we might not play at the level we need to.

‘In the [league] that we’re in, we play some of the best teams in Southern California,” he continued. “So, you can’t feel very good for a long time because the next one could be Village [Christian] or Heritage [Christian] and that’s what we are using these games to win, obviously.”

In other V.C. athletics news, the girls basketball team (7-12, 2-0) has won six straight games following a 37-33 win over Whittier Christian and is also scheduled to host Village Christian today and Heritage Christian on Tuesday.

Boys soccer (9-2-2, 2-0-0), ranked seventh in Division 5, is scheduled to visit Village Christian today and Heritage Christian on Tuesday while girls soccer (6-4-2, 1-0-0) is scheduled to host those two teams on the same days.

ARTESIA HIGH

Boys basketball (13-4, 1-0 in the 605 League), ranked second in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA poll, is scheduled to visit Whitney High tonight, play Rialto High on Monday and travel to Pioneer High on Wednesday.

Girls basketball (10-6, 1-0), ranked 15th in Division 4AA, is scheduled to visit Whitney tonight and go to Pioneer on Wednesday.

Boys soccer (10-1-1, 3-0-0), ranked fourth in Division 5, was scheduled to visit Bellflower on Jan. 13, host Whitney today and entertain Pioneer on Tuesday.

Girls soccer (2-11-1, 2-0-0) is scheduled to host Rancho Christian High today and travel to Pioneer on Tuesday.

CERRITOS HIGH

Boys basketball (2-12) has not played since Dec. 28 and has had its first four 605 League games postponed. The Dons are scheduled to face Capistrano Valley High on Monday in the MLK Classic at St. John Bosco High and go to John Glenn High on Wednesday.

Boys soccer (0-6-2, 0-1-0 in the 605 League) is scheduled to visit Pioneer today and host Glenn on Tuesday while girls soccer (7-1-3, 1-0-0), ranked sixth in Division 5, is scheduled to entertain Pioneer today and travel to Glenn on Tuesday.

GAHR HIGH

Boys basketball (10-6, 0-1 in the San Gabriel Valley League) is scheduled to visit Warren High tonight and host Paramount High on Wednesday while girls basketball (3-17, 0-2) is scheduled to precede the boys.

Boys soccer (1-9-0, 0-3-0) was scheduled to travel to Warren on Jan. 13, host Paramount on Tuesday and Downey High on Thursday while girls soccer (4-9-0, 1-1-0) is scheduled to face the same teams on the same days at the opposite site.

JOHN GLENN

Boys basketball (7-7, 0-1 in the 605 League), ranked ninth in Division 5A, and girls basketball (0-13, 0-1) are scheduled to go to Oxford Academy today while the boys are scheduled to entertain Bosco Tech High on Monday.

Boys soccer is 2-10-0, 1-2-0 while the girls are 1-12-0, 0-1-0 as both are scheduled to face Oxford Academy and Cerritos.

LA MIRADA HIGH

Boys basketball (7-12) ranked 16th in Division 2A, has not played since Dec. 30 and is scheduled to Diamond Bar High on Monday in the MLK Classic at St. John Bosco before opening Suburban League action at Bellflower on Tuesday while girls basketball (2-7) has not played since Dec. 14 and will also visit Bellflower on Tuesday.

Boys soccer (7-2-2, 1-1-0 in the Suburban League), ranked eighth in Division 2, was scheduled to host Mayfair High on Jan. 13 and go to Firebaugh High on Tuesday and Norwalk High on Thursday while girls soccer (6-2-6, 1-0-0) is scheduled to face the same teams on the same days at the opposite site.

NORWALK

Boys basketball (6-13), which hasn’t played since Jan. 5, and girls basketball (11-8) are scheduled to go to Mayfair on Tuesday.

Boys soccer (8-1-2, 2-0-0) ranked second in Division 2, was scheduled to visit Firebaugh on Jan. 13 and host Bellflower on Tuesday while girls soccer (2-11-1, 0-2-0) is scheduled to face the same teams on the same days at the opposite sites.

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