Jumping out to a lead midway through the first half, West Ranch boys basketball came out with a tenacity that was unrivaled against St. Bernard at the War On the Floor tournament at John Burroughs High in Burbank, but ultimately fell 70-63.
With Austin Galuppo and Andrew Austin gone — Galuppo graduated and Austin transferred to Sierra Canyon — first-year head coach Ron Manalastas is trying to create a new culture with the pieces that he inherited from last year’s team.
“We didn’t quit, we battled,” Manalastas said. “From start to finish we played hard. That’s my number one goal, is to get these guys to play different from how they played last season. Because it’s a different style that I want to play.”
Leading for most of the first half, the Wildcat offense was run by Carter Williams, who returns from last year’s team.
“Carter is just a tall guard. He’s the guy that gets all of our stuff going,” Manalastas said. “When he gets us going and executes that just helps everyone else out so our team is going to benefit from Carter’s play.
Making a run with just under four minutes to go in the half, the St. Bernard defense was able to lock the Wildcats up and force them to pick up their dribbles, throwing the offense off balance and causing turnovers.
“We aren’t together yet and we are learning a brand new system, so there’s only so much we can focus on at a time,” Manalastas said.
St. Bernard led by two at the half, 33-31.
In the second half, Wildcats’ Robbie Myers created a little bit of offense maneuvering down low in the post as it looked like it was an emphasis to try and get the ball to him underneath the basket.
Using back cuts and aggressive slashing in the lane the Wildcats were able to keep the Vikings within striking distance as they went basket for basket with no team leading by more than six points.
But then St. Bernard got smart. They decided to try and take advantage of the size difference down low.
Dumping the ball down low, the Wildcats had no answer and just couldn’t close the gap, only coming within one point of the Vikings with under four minutes to go in the game.
“For the most part we did a good job, but in the second half, they just had their way with us,” Manalastas said. “They got inside the paint and that’s what killed us.”
West Ranch will face off against Royal High tomorrow at 6:25 p.m. at St. Genevieve High School.