Valhalla Survives Late Scare
Rafid Kiti wasn’t really worried. Well, maybe just a little uncomfortable.
Kiti watched as fourth-ranked Valhalla’s 20-point lead over Santana in a Grossmont League 2-A boy’s basketball game dwindled to 5 points before time ran out, and the Norseman walked away with a 73-68 victory at Valhalla Tuesday night.
Kiti hit a 3-point shot with 3:41 remaining to give Valhalla a 71-51 lead. Then Santana went on a run, with Paul Newark hitting three 3-pointers.
Kiti remembered last season, when Santana visited Valhalla in a game to decide the Grossmont League title.
Valhalla led at the half of that game, then watched Santana rally for a 97-81 victory behind Newark’s 3-point shooting.
This game wasn’t for the league title, but the winner would have the inside track. Valhalla (2-0, 10-5) couldn’t afford to lose at home against Santana (2-1, 10-3) considering the teams still must play in Santee on Feb. 10.
“I said ‘Coach, let’s put five guys on (Newark) and make the others make them,” said Kiti, who led all scorers with 28 points. "(Last year) we slacked off, and they beat us.”
Except for the final 3:41, Valhalla was in complete control, taking a 13-2 to start and making it 39-19 with 2:33 remaining in the second quarter. Valhalla did not score again in the quarter and led, 39-25, at the half.
Santana came out strong in the third quarter. After Tony Campbell scored inside to give Valhalla a 41-25 lead, the Sultans outscored the Norsemen, 11-5, to pull within 46-36.
Valhalla kicked back into gear and pulled away to make it 71-51, then made it interesting with some ill-advised shooting. Campbell’s slam with 1:53 left was all of Valhalla’s scoring in the final 3:41.
Newark had not made a shot until he hit his 3-pointers, but it was a little late for Santana.
“We get the mental set that when we have the lead, we don’t have to play hard,” Kiti said. “We pop it into neutral.”
Campbell, the league’s leading scorer, scored 25 points and Jon Scurlock added 10 for Valhalla.