West Ranch hoops awakens in 2nd half

West Ranch's Austin Galuppo (32) reaches for a rebound alongside a pair of Granada Hills Charter players. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The West Ranch High boys basketball team trailed by one point against Granada Hills Charter at the end of the first quarter. At the end of the second quarter, the Wildcats were still behind by one measly point.

The team was able to get their heads straight during halftime, however, to come back and win at home 67-52 on Wednesday night.

“I think all of us were really excited and really hyper because it’s our first home game,” said West Ranch’s Austin Galuppo, who finished with a team-high 26 points. “I think just after the first half, we got all the jitters out, so we needed to start moving and play how we knew how to play.”

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The Highlanders, a team that defeated both Hart High and Valencia High earlier this season, forced the Wildcats to miss seemingly easy shots and intercepted cross-court passes.

Granada Hills’ greatest strength was its passing. Like a game of tic-tac-toe, they were able to connect and easily sink baskets.

“We just tried to pressure them as much as we could,” said Cats coach Shant Bicakci. “Kind of make them shoot contested shots and rebound the ball. They’re good shooters and that’s kind of the best we could do.”

West Ranch's Josh Paz goes up for a shot against Granada Hills at West Ranch High School on Wednesday. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
West Ranch’s Josh Paz goes up for a shot against Granada Hills at West Ranch High School on Wednesday. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

A second-quarter, six-point scoring run from Wildcat Andrew Austin embodied hope, but West Ranch (7-7) still found itself fighting for every possession.

“In the first half, we were like, one pass, shoot a three, we miss, they get the ball. Now we’re playing defense again for 30 seconds,” Bicakci said.

The team that came out of the locker room on the other side of the half was a team that was much smarter. Shots were more strategic. Rebounds were fought harder for. Turnovers were nearly eliminated.

Granada Hills fell behind by seven points by the end of the third quarter and 15 by the time the game had come to a close.

“At halftime, coach told us we just need to talk more,” Galuppo said. “They had really nice passes, they had nice back cuts, so we needed to talk more on defense.”

West Ranch begins league play on Jan. 10 against Valencia. The squad is thankful for the win after inconsistent results in previous preleague games.

“We’re just trying to develop a little bit of rhythm on what kind of team we are and our identity, so this is definitely a baby step, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Bicakci.

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