Three nights after Austin Galuppo delivered the greatest offensive performance in West Ranch boys basketball history, the Wildcats produced the most impressive defensive effort by any Foothill League team this season.
After surrendering a season-high 83 points to Valencia in the league opener on Jan. 10, West Ranch limited the Vikings to 10 second-half points in Friday’s rematch to secure a 54-35 victory, allowing the Wildcats (12-9 overall, 4-2 Foothill) to remain in a three-way tie for first place with Hart and Golden Valley.
“The first game was one pass and shoot. We weren’t making them work at all on defense, so we felt like we were defending for 50 seconds out of every minute,” said West Ranch coach Shant Bicakci, whose team split with Valencia for the third consecutive season.
“We wanted to make them play defense and make it tough for them to score against us. They’re a really good team and I’ve known coach (Chad) Phillips for a while. He always has his guys ready and in a position to win.”
Valencia (11-11, 3-3) relied on five 3-pointers to lead 25-24 at halftime, with Dexter Akanno scoring nine of his team-high 11 points. But the Vikings were held scoreless for a stretch of 7:20 in the second half and surrendered the final 13 points of the third quarter as part of a 15-0 West Ranch run.
“Last time, they hit a lot of 3-pointers, so we switched everything defensively to make sure they didn’t get a lot of open looks,” said West Ranch senior Chris Kodama, who had 16 points.
“We didn’t make any adjustments at halftime, we just played a lot better in the second half. That’s all we talked about in the locker room after the game was holding them to 10 points in the second half.”
Galuppo, who set school and league records with 51 points Tuesday against Golden Valley, had a team-high 17 points Friday. But even with Galuppo not scoring in the fourth quarter, West Ranch still won its fourth straight, with Suren Aghazadian, Andrew Austin and Josh Paz each contributing six points.
“The first time we played them, we were just putting everything in defensively and they were playing at home and they have some of the best shooters in the league and they didn’t miss,” Galuppo said. “We couldn’t give them as many opportunities as the first game. We had to contest everything.”