ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As much as the North Valley tends to throw a warm and fuzzy blanket over its beloved boys basketball program, the 2013-14 Valley Vikings are proving to be fiercely problematic away from home.
Coming off recent conquests at both Sandia and Clovis, Valley (14-1) opened District 5-5A with another impressive road victory, this one a wire-to-wire 57-50 win at Atrisco Heritage on Tuesday night.
“We love playing away from home,” senior guard Joe Anaya said. “It brings us together even more.”
Which, in the larger scheme of things, cannot rate as joyous news for the rest of 5-5A that figures to be chasing the talented Vikings over the next five weeks of league play.
Of the Vikes’ 10 league games, this one figured to present the most resistance.
But the Vikings smacked the Jaguars (12-3, 0-1) in the mouth with a 10-1 run in the first three minutes of the game, and Valley, led by Anaya’s 8-of-8, went 13-of-14 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“Valley made plays, and we didn’t down the stretch,” Jaguars coach Adrian Ortega said.
Atrisco, to its credit, not only battled back from that terrible start, but the Jaguars were in Valley’s shadow most of the second half.
A late 5-0 run to close the second quarter, all from post Patrick Roark, allowed the Jags to close to 25-22 by halftime after trailing by as many as 11 (19-8).
Every Atrisco challenge in the second half was met head-on by Valley, however.
“They enjoy the atmosphere, and that’s what these guys relish,” Vikings coach Joe Coleman said.
The Jaguars were within two or three points on several occasions, including 48-46 after Roark hit two free throws with 2:11 to go. But Troy Giddings, on a dish from Anaya, scored from close to make it 50-46 with 1:30 to go – a vital possession insomuch as the Vikings collected a crucial loose-ball rebound off an initial 3-point miss from Adonis Saltes.
“Joe is the glue and the rock of this team,” Coleman said. “And he accepts that responsibility really well.”
The Vikings’ fourth-quarter poise is old hat for them, especially with a group of talented senior guards such as Anaya, Saltes, Rob Armijo and Bo Coleman.
“These guys, it’s their team,” Joe Coleman said. “I just need to get out of their way and let them play.”
Saltes led the Vikings with 21 points. Anaya added 16.
Roark led AHA with 14 points. Corbin Waquie added 13, all in the second half.