Bryce Jones cracked a smile and couldn’t help but start dancing and dribbling the ball between his legs as the clock expired Friday night.
It’s tough to blame the sophomore guard. His Valley boys basketball team had just beaten Eldorado 71-62, winning the Northeast League play-in game at Desert Pines and making the postseason for the first time in his career.
“We’re playing really good now with great energy,” Jones said. “They’re a beatable team. Everybody’s a beatable team, we just have to come out and play the right kind of basketball.”
The win was the rubber match in the three-game series for Valley (9-18). The Vikings beat the Sundevils on Jan. 12 49-39, then fell Monday by a 58-31 score.
The tiebreaker came down to a fourth-quarter run by the Vikings, where Jones, junior Oscar Burns and senior John King drained 3-pointers on consecutive Valley shots. It was part of a 13-3 run that ended with the Vikings up 62-49 with five minutes to play, their biggest lead of the game.
“We just drove and kicked, and we have shooters,” Jones said. “John, he is a great shooter, Oscar is a great shooter. We’re just shooters. So when we drove and kicked out, they gave us open shots and we just knocked them down.”
Juan De Dios-Magana had 14 points and seven rebounds for Valley.J ones finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. King had 12 points, and Burns had eight points, four rebounds and four assists.
It wasn’t that long ago that Valley was in the playoffs, but to the young core, it feels like a lifetime. The Vikings advanced to the region championship game in 2015, but Jones wasn’t there, and neither was sophomore Michael Fullmer or freshman Tommy Anderson, who finished with 14 and 12 points Friday, respectively
And coach Adam Zakos wasn’t on that 2015 squad. He will go to the playoffs now in just his second year as coach, improving the Vikings from three win last season to nine this year.
“We’re building the basketball program,” Zakos said. “We’re building off of it and it’s a great opportunity for us to play against a really good team.”
The Vikings claimed the fourth seed in the Northeast League and will face Coronado, the top seed in the Southeast League, in the Sunrise Region quarterfinals on Tuesday.
“They’re going to underestimate us so we have to come out and punch them in the mouth,” Jones said.
Sophomore Jonathan Thomas scored 17 to lead the Sundevils (3-19), and junior Jordan Carter had 12 points for Eldorado.
Contact Justin Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.