West Ranch girls basketball coach Carlos Fandino stood near midcourt during a practice last week.
On the baseline to Fandino’s left stood a player in a blue jersey, and on the free-throw line stood a player in a gold jersey. In between them sat a basketball.
In his first year as West Ranch’s girls basketball coach, Fandino likes using competition-based practices to make his players hungrier to win. Fandino knows West Ranch (2-5) is in a rebuilding year after finishing fifth in the Foothill League last season. While West Ranch only returns three players from last year’s team, they like their new coach and love his new system.
“Three, two, one,” Fandino said before the players competed for the loose ball.
Depending on which team came away with the ball, Fandino awarded a point on the scoreboard, He awards points after shooting drills and speed and agility drills, too.
At the end of practice each night, extra sprints await the losing team.
“It’s a little bit different,” Fandino said. “Everything we do is competition based. It keeps practice interesting. “
Fandino says the message to his team is clear: There’s a consequence if you lose.
Last season West Ranch went 12-14 overall, and just 2-8 in Foothill League play. The Wildcats season ended with a 55-37 loss to Arroyo Grande in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs.
Over the past 10 seasons, West Ranch has had just two winning records in league play.
Fandino said he understands growth will take time.
“This is not an overnight task,” Fandino said. “This is a couple year task.”
Both of West Ranch’s seniors buy into his mission to make the program better long after they are gone.
“I feel like knowing that you are part of something that will (eventually) totally dominate is a great feeling,” said senior Ashley Woodhouse. “Compared to the beginning we have gotten so much better.”
Senior Izzy Singer also said she likes setting a good example for her younger teammates.
“(Fandino) has instilled really good morals into the younger girls,” Singer said.
This season West Ranch will be a very young and inexperienced team made up of Woodhouse, Singer, five juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. The Wildcats only
returned three players from last year’s team.
Several girls on the team had never played basketball before this season, so Fandino requires those players to dribble a basketball during sprints.
Over the summer, last season’s leading scorer, junior Annie Christofferson, transferred to Hart High. Christofferson earned All-Santa Clarita Valley second team honors and scored 463 points, or 38 percent, of West Ranch’s 1,190 points last year.
Of West Ranch’s returning, players sophomore Ellie McQuillen averaged the most points per game last year with an average of 3.9. Singer averaged 3.2 points per game and Woodhouse averaged 2.7 points per game.
Their rebounding numbers were better — McQuillen averaged 4.5 rebounds, and Woodhouse averaged 3.2 rebounds — but they all know more will be asked of them after Christofferson’s transfer.
“It was huge,” McQuillen said. “Honestly, last year we relied on her for everything. Our entire offense revolved around Annie, so it’s definitely a big adjustment.”
Singer said she’s become more aggressive on offense.
“We were role players last year, but now we’re leaders,” McQuillen said.