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No. 7 Santana Beats Valhalla to Clinch Title in Grossmont

Bricks, ‘bounds, breaks, 3-point bombs and a Back helped the No. 7 Santana High School boys’ basketball team beat No. 9 Valhalla, 97-81, and clinch the Grossmont League title at Valhalla Thursday night.

Santana (22-1, 16-0) trailed at halftime, 39-26. But a 16-4 spurt midway through the third quarter erased that deficit. Santana outscored Valhalla (15-7, 13-3), 33-23, in the third.

After playing well in the first half, Valhalla’s Rafid Kiti provided the bricks in the third quarter.

In the first quarter, Kiti, who had scored 46 and 43 points earlier this season and averaged 20.8 points, did exactly what Santana Coach John Bobof was afraid of: He scored at will. Kiti made a three-pointer, and several leaning layups after drives to score 12 points.

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Bobof switched to a box-and-one defense in the second quarter, and that slowed Kiti. While Kiti scored only four points in the second quarter, Santana came back from eight down to trail by only three at the half.

But after Valhalla’s Dan Chase made two three-pointers, Bobof switched his defense again, this time to a triangle with two players playing man-to-man against Kiti and Chase. That opened up the game for Santana.

Santana rotated three players--Matt Panebianco, Andy Heacock and Jason Maloney--on Kiti in the third quarter, when he was 1 for 7 from the field.

“I got a little frustrated,” Kiti said. “They played great defense. I couldn’t get the shots I wanted.”

Bobof was of course pleased by that. But he was equally pleased with another consequence of his change in defensive strategy.

Santana had three players instead of two under the basket to get rebounds, which they turned into fast breaks..

Tim Barry, who had scored only six points, made an outside shot. Then he dove after a loose ball and managed to flip it to Panebianco under the basket for another score to start the streak.

Santana led for good, 53-51, with 3 minutes 50 seconds to play in the third quarter after Joe Church scored on a fast break.

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“In a game like this, there is a lot of adrenaline flowing,” Bobof said. “They played only five guys the whole game. I was running guys in and out of there the whole time. I think it wore them down.”

Paul Newark came of the bench and helped Santana build on its lead, hitting four three-pointers in the third quarter. Newark hit one as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter to give Santana a 69-62 lead.

After Santana scored two in the first 48 seconds of the fourth quarter, Valhalla never was close.

Stu Back, a 6-foot 8-inch center, was not involved in the fast breaks, but he played well when Santana was forced to set up. He scored 20 points and made 8 of 9 from the line.

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Valhalla’s Jeff Collins had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Clark and Kiti each scored 21 points for Valhalla. Clark also had 10 rebounds. Church had 18 and Panebianco scored 17 for Santana.


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