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Another year at the top - 2022-2023 Viking men's basketball

Tue May 9, 2023

There were only eight teams still playing when the 2023 CCCAA Men's Basketball State Championship tournament tipped off March 9 at West Hills College-Lemoore. For the second straight year, the West Valley College Vikings were one of those elite teams vying for a state championship.

West Valley roared into the championship tourney with another stellar regular season and a pair of gritty NorCal playoff wins. Coach Danny Yoshikawa's Vikings returned to the final eight with one of the youngest teams in the state – four freshmen started for most of the season – after losing 90% of its offense and the team's top eight players (minutes) from the 2022 state runner-up squad. 

West Valley finished the season 26-5 overall and narrowly missed its third-consecutive Coast Conference championship, finishing just a game out of first at 10-2. WVC rolled through the ultra-competitive Coast-South with season sweeps of Cabrillo, De Anza, Gavilan, Hartnell and Monterey Peninsula. The Vikings opened the season with an 11-game winning streak and the only games they lost in 2022-23 were to teams who also made the state championship final eight.

The NorCal postseason opener on Feb. 25 against Porterville in Saratoga featured one of the most electrifying individual performances in West Valley's storied playoff history. Elijah Mahi shredded the Porterville defense for 28 second-half points to rally the Vikings past the Pirates 67-60. West Valley found itself on the short end of a 30-19 halftime score, but the Pirates had no answer for Mahi, who was literally unstoppable in the second half and finished with a season-high 35 points.

In the NorCal final against visiting Las Positas on March 4, the Vikings trailed 22-10 in the first half and then went on a 35-17 run en route to an 88-75 win and a spot in the state championship final eight. The comeback in both postseason games was emblematic of the team's grit and consistent, season-long ability to overcome any deficit. 

Mahi was one of only five freshmen named to the 2023 All-State team and was the Coast Freshman Player of the Year, an All-Coast South 1st-Team selection and a member of the All-State Tournament Team. He was joined on the All-Coast South 1st-Team by Baron Bracey, who was also the Coast-South Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the All-Freshman Team, and Jeremiah Dargan, who was also selected to the All-Freshman Team. Ariya Briscoe and Malik Patton were named to the Coast-South Honorable Mention Team.

Four sophomores ended their Viking careers in 2023. Nick Attanasio, Ignacio Bettinelli, Malik Patton and Tyler Watters all saw time as starters in 2023 and were significant contributors to West Valley's success in 2022 and 2023. The sophomores finished with a 54-9 overall record, 22-2 in conference, the 2022 Coast title and a pair of CCCAA State Championship appearances during their time in Saratoga. 

As a team, the 2022-23 Vikings executed Yoshikawa's defensive expectations to near perfection. They finished the season as the state's top defensive team, allowing 61.4 points-per-game, while averaging nearly 80 on offense. WVC posted the CCCAA's #1 rebounding margin, grabbing 40.8 per game while surrendering just 26.5, a 14.3 margin. The Vikings held opponents to sub-30% three-point shooting, while shooting a state 4th-best 39.3% themselves.   

Mahi's 17.5 PPG led the Vikings, followed by Dargan's 14.0. Dargan had a team-high 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Patton pulled down a team-high 7.2 rebounds a game, including a Coast-South-leading 3.2 offensive boards. Nick Attanasio was #1 in the Coast-South with a 47.8 three-point shooting percentage.