East County Sports

Norsemen hold off Highlanders’ rally

Valhalla senior DOMINIC SAFARTA runs the Norse offense on Friday night against Helix.

2018 EAST COUNTY PREP BOYS BASKETBALL

By Ramon Scott

EastCountySports.com

TIERRASANTA – It’s safe to say, Valhalla’s DOMANIC SAFARTA is pretty popular with his new teammates.

The senior transfer from Christian High might be a newcomer this year to the team and on campus, but his role as a star and a leader seems unquestioned.

On Friday night, the sharp-shooter who was a strong contributor on a Patriots team that reached the state Division IV regional final last season, scored 24 points and dished out eight assists to propel the Norsemen to a 68-64 win over Helix in the Boys Division of the SoCal Holiday Prep Classic at Serra High.

Safarta averaged 6.7 points per game last season at Christian but has become one of the county’s top scoring threats this season, scoring nearly 24 points-per-game with the Norsemen.

The Patriots are still a great team but Safarta, along with fellow Christian High transfer JORDAN GAINES, has helped make Valhalla an immediate contender in the upcoming Grossmont Valley League season after winning just six games overall in 2017-18 and finishing with just one win while in the Hills circuit, which ironically, was won by Helix (8-0).

Valhalla (9-2) led by as many as 20 points (49-29) in the third quarter only to see the Highlanders claw to within three in the final minute.

Sophomore JOE AVALOS, who had 17 points, including four three-pointers, made key free throws down the stretch to secure the win.

Senior EVAN O’NEILL added 15 points for the Norsemen, 12 of which came in the second half.

Safarta made a three-pointer with just a couple of seconds remaining in the first quarter to give Valhalla a 16-9 lead.

Avalos did the same in the second quarter, sending the Norsemen into the locker room with a 36-20 lead.

Valhalla eventually led 52-33 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Scotties eventually would battle back in the fourth quarter.

Helix (8-7) might have actually come out on top had it been able to convert several opportunities from close range, a sure sign of their lack of practice time in the gym.

Valhalla senior EVAN O’NEILL puts up a jumper in the first quarter on Friday night.

The Highlanders are playing every game on the road this season while the gym at Helix is being refurbished. Their practice time is limited while sharing facilities with the school’s other teams.

Another transfer from Christian High that joined the Norsemen this season, JORDAN GAINES, had seven points in the first half.

Helix junior MAURICE HOLMES scored 11 points in the first half.

Helix junior KEISHAWN TRICE and sophomore KAI JESSE were particularly effective in helping the Highlander rally.

A pair of free throws by Helix junior SAMMY STEWART brought the Scotties to within 64-63 with 27.6 seconds remaining.

Helix will play Mira Mesa and star Noah Tumblin on Saturday at 3:30 at Serra High to conclude the tournament.

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