East County Sports

Norsemen create four-way log-jam

Valhalla senior JORDAN GAINES passes while heading to the hoop on Tuesday. / photo by CS Pro Photo
JORDAN GAINES, of Valhalla, drives against El Capitan’s JAQORI HARRIS on Tuesday. / photo by CS Pro Photo



By Ramon Scott


LAKESIDE – Valhalla sophomore JOE AVALOS got hot early and the Norsemen rekindled the fire in the third quarter to defeat the host El Capitan Vaqueros, 61-50, in a key Grossmont Valley League contest on Tuesday night.

EVAN O’NEILL (33) grabs a defensive rebound in the second half on Tuesday.

Valhalla has several players to worry about for a defense, but the attention given to the Norsemen stars in the first quarter, allowed the spotlight to shine on Avalos in the early going.

The sharp-shooting Avalos knocked down four three-pointers in the opening quarter, as Valhalla led 14-9 after one period.

“They were focused on DOM (SAFARTA) in the zone they were in and that opened up the threes for me and I just knocked them down,” Avalos said. “Having guys like Dom and JORDAN (GAINES) on my team helps me because teams are not able to focus on just one guy.

“When they feed me the ball and I start hitting my shots it opens up the lane for those guys to get layups.”

Gaines was able to approach the lane, drawing the defense to guard him closer, then was moving past the defenders to get the angle off the glass. He did this several times during the game.

The Vaqueros, however, had a strong second quarter behin six points from senior center RANDY TUCKER and a three-pointer by junior JAQORI HARRIS to trail just 24-22 at intermission.

Valhalla’s proficient trio, however, of Gaines, Safarta and EVAN O’NEILL methodically regained control of the proceedings in the second half, outscoring the Vaqueros, 14-7, in the third quarter.

“Jordan is able to get us buckets when we need them and he knows how to use his body to either finish the layup or get a foul call,” Avalos said. “Dom was not having the best game, but he was still able to find open guys and distribute the ball.”

Valhalla senior DOMANIC SAFARTA is wrestled by El Capitan freshman NICK HADGE on Tuesday evening.

After the Norsemen built a 12-point lead early in the fourth, El Cap kept the game and their fans alive with a mini-rush to pull within 56-51 behind the confident scoring drives by junior JACOB PFITZNER.

However, Safarta canned a three-pointer in the final minute to deflate the rally, as the teams combined for 44 points in the final stanza.

Gaines finished with 17 points, while Safarta, after a scoreless first half, had 11 points and nine assists.

O’Neill scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

El Capitan senior center RANDY TUCKER goes up against Valhalla. / photo by CS Pro Photo

The win drew pre-season favorite Valhalla (16-3, 2-1 GVL) into a four-way tie with the previously league unbeaten Vaqueros (11-8, 2-1 GVL), along with Granite Hills (2-1 GVL) and Santana (2-1 GVL).

“After our loss to Granite, this was a must-win game for us to get back on track to be at the top of our league,” Avalos said. “We just have to be ready for every team’s best effort.”

Valhalla has a non-league home game scheduled for Wednesday against the Madison Warhawks at 5:15 before facing the Sultans on the road this Friday in Santee at 7.

The Vaqueros travel to face El Cajon Valley on Friday at 7.

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