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Road Rage Pays Off for Simi Valley

Division I-A boys' basketball: Pioneers rally from seven points down for second playoff victory away from home, beating Canyon, 70-54.

February 17, 2001|MITCH POLIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

CANYON COUNTRY — Earlier in the season, the Simi Valley High boys' basketball team might have lost a game like this, when they trailed by seven points on the road early in the first quarter.

Center Dustin Villepigue, one of four seniors starters, said it was the Pioneers' experience that helped them pull away for a 70-54 victory Friday night over Canyon in a Southern Section I-AA first-round game at Canyon.

"The best thing about this team is we've grown up together," Villepigue said. "Everyone knows each other and everyone knows theirroles."

So when the Pioneers (20-8) fell behind, 13-6, with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter, they weren't overwhelmed by either the Cowboys (16-11) or their boisterous crowd.

When Simi Valley finally made its move, the seniors had the biggest role.

Senior Ryan Bradshaw scored his first points on a three-point basket with 35 seconds remaining in the first half to put the Pioneers ahead for good, 31-28.

And seniors Jared Weaver and Villepigue helped keep Simi Valley ahead.

Villepigue, a 6-foot-9 center, took control underneath and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He made eight of 13 shots.

Weaver finished with 19 points, including 12 in the first half, and made eight of 14 shots.

Canyon, which won the Foothill League, trailed, 36-34, early in the third quarter before the Pioneers went on an 8-0 run to pull away.

It was the second consecutive road victory in the playoffs for Simi Valley, which defeated Foothill, 70-61, on Wednesday in a wild-card game.

Coach Christian Aurand said it helped that his team played in one of the most competitive leagues in the region.

The Pioneers might have finished fourth in the Marmonte League but he said they gained a world of experience in the process.

"It's a senior-dominated team but as far as playing in this kind of environment, we didn't have a lot of that game experience earlier in the season," Aurand said. "Playing in our league really made a difference."

With the intensity of the crowd, forward Brian Waite of Canyon said he thought his team could play with Simi Valley early on.

Then, somewhere in the third quarter, reality set in.

"We were confident," Waite said. "With the home crowd, we thought we could keep it close and we did at first. But then things just got away from us."

After two games on the road, Aurand said his team is looking forward to playing at home.

"There is nothing like home cooking," he said.

Jeremy Haggerty had 18 points and nine rebounds and Matt Nelson added 17 points for Canyon.

Bradshaw had 11, including three three-pointers, for the Pioneers.

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