Both West Ranch and Hart entered a Friday-night showdown tied for fifth place in Foothill League standings and neither team wanted to give the other any room to operate.
Hart began the game in its usual full-court press and it worked, for the most part.
West Ranch head coach Ron Manalastas called a timeout two minutes into the game to settle his team, which at the time was trailing by one point.
“Just run what we normally run as a press break,” Manalastas said. “Sometimes when the game gets sped up, our mind gets sped up and we just need to slow things down.”
Doing just that, West Ranch was able to adjust for the next 30 minutes of the game and came away with a crucial 81-68 road victory at Hart.
Feeding the ball down low to bigs Robbie Myers and Alex Grant, West Ranch (12-8 overall, 2-2 in Foothill League) dominated the points in the paint, as the former finished with a game-high 24 points and five rebounds and the latter with 18 points and eight rebounds.
West Ranch’s length and size down low bothered Hart (6-14, 1-3) throughout the game and helped win the rebound battle 31-19.
“I think our game plan was solid,” Manalastas said. “All year we have been trying to get it inside to Robbie and Clyde and in games like this, this is why we do that. Hart is a very solid basketball team and we just wanted to get the ball inside to our big guys and let them do their thing.”
Hart countered with 3-point shooting. Isaac Deedon, Joey Harand, Dillon Barrientos and Ryan Burcham combed to hit six 3’s in the first half.
“If we attack and pitch we can get wide open 3’s, but we have to be able to attack,” said Hart head coach Tom Kelly.
Wildcats junior point-forward Clyde Seo dictated the pace of the game grabbing countless rebounds to ignite the West Ranch offense leading to easy fast break points.
“I just try to do whatever the team needs,” Seo said. “If I’m not getting anything I’ll distribute and do whatever I need to.”
Seo finished the game with four points, six rebounds and upwards of six assists in the game.
Asserting himself in the second quarter by putting his head down and driving into the lane, Hart’s Ty Penberthy was able to beat West Ranch defenders off the dribble causing them to foul him and send him to the line on three different occasions.
Penberthy finished with seven points in the first half, all on free throws, and 14 in the game.
At halftime, West Ranch held a slim 45-41 lead.
In the third, both teams traded baskets thanks to big offensive rebounds and second-chance points by Hart’s Harand. Carter Williams was able to find the open man down the court for easy outlet passes for the Wildcats.
Beginning the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run, Williams followed Seo’s lead using his shifty ball-handling skills to drive into the lane and find the open man on the perimeter capping the run with a Deaken Stangl corner-3.
“We have been on varsity for a couple years now, so we are pretty experienced guys and we don’t get affected by pressure or anything,” Williams said. “And I know we are going to do good down the stretch.”
Hart was able to cut the lead to 69-63 after a Burcham three and a Julian Verrier floater in the lane with 2:16 remaining, but couldn’t close the gap in time, falling to West Ranch for its third Foothill League loss of the season.
Both teams are back in action on Tuesday with Hart traveling to Saugus while West Ranch hosts Golden Valley.
“It’s just a lot of momentum going into the next game,” Stangl said. “The two losses that we had to Saugus and Valencia had a negative impact on our team, but we will use this as momentum and finish out the season 8-2.”
Valencia 73, Golden Valley 40
Richard Kawakami led the Vikings in scoring with 14 points. Ben Hanvey followed with 12 and Jake Hlywiak and Ahmad Loving ended with 10 points.
Valencia (16-3, 3-0) plays at Fairfax today. Golden Valley is now 3-15 and 0-4 on the season.