Don Bauder 6:30 p.m., Jan. 20
Valhalla turns tables on Helix
Norsemen sit alone atop Grossmont South League
Note to future Valhalla opponents: do not take the Norsemen lightly. With their 53-34 win at Helix on Tuesday, Valhalla has now won 10 of their last 11 games.
“It used to be in the past years that teams like Helix would see us on the schedule and think automatic victory,” said Valhalla senior forward Kyle Kriebel. “We didn’t want Valhalla to be thought of like that anymore.”
Of their five Grossmont South wins this year, none may mean more than this win over Helix. Although they have struggled this year, the Highlanders are two-time defending league champs.
“It’s huge because I can’t tell you the last time a Valhalla basketball team has beaten Helix,” Kriebel said. “I’ve been watching games since the sixth grade and I’ve never seen us beat them on the varsity level.
“Being 4-0 in league is nice, but it’s nothing until you beat Helix. The league title comes through their gym every year.”
Both teams played very even in a physical first half. Helix led 19-15 with two minutes left in the half before Valhalla went on a 5-0 run to take a one-point lead into the break.
The Norsemen came out with a 6-0 run to start the third quarter and a Kriebel three at the buzzer have Valhalla a 39-29 lead headed into the fourth. That lead would be more than enough, as Valhalla’s man-to-man defense held Helix to five points in the fourth quarter and the Norsemen won going away.
“Last year we struggled on the defensive end and it showed in our league win total,” Kriebel said. “That’s something we really focus on and take pride in. It’s won us a lot of games this year.”
Kriebel lead a balanced Valhalla (15-7, 5-0) attack with 16 points. Norsemen forward Josh Austel finished with 14 points and point guard Austen Suhay had 11. Forward Sam Meredith led Helix (11-10, 1-4) with 12 points.
After starting the season 5-6, Valhalla has played some of the best basketball in the section. Kriebel attributes the success to the team’s difficult early schedule, including games against some of the West’s best teams in the Bishop Gorman Classic in Las Vegas in December.
“Early on we played a very tough schedule, so our record in the beginning of the year didn’t really show how good our team was,” Kriebel said.
Maybe Valhalla’s current 5-0 record in league is a better indicator.
Valhalla guard Austen Suhay drives through three Helix defenders