West Ranch boys basketball had one thing on their mind for Senior Night on Tuesday: Win.
Battling with Hart for the full 32 minutes, the Wildcats did just that, coming away with a 78-70 win against the Indians.
“This is our last one for us seniors and we had to go all out,” said West Ranch senior guard Carter Williams. “This is exactly how I wanted to it to turn out. I’ve been playing here for the last four years and this is exactly how I wanted to it to turn out. I think every single senior scored which is perfect.”
Williams finished the night with a game-high 22 points and four rebounds in his final regular season home game.
Hart was the aggressor to begin the game as Joey Harand hit a corner 3, Ty Penberthy followed up with a 3-pointer of his own and a couple of Isaac Deedon free throws gave Hart and 8-0 lead just minutes into the game.
West Ranch (16-9 overall, 6-3 in Foothill League) responded with hard drives into the lane by Williams, put-backs by Robbie Myers down low and a corner 3 by senior Brett Borden to help the Wildcats climb back in the game.
Tied at 23-23 to begin the second quarter, the Wildcats continued their momentum, jumping out to a 30-26 lead capped by five straight points by senior Joseph Lee who hit a wide-open 3 and a reverse layup in the lane as the West Ranch crowd erupted.
“Senior night gave me the momentum to score,” Lee said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all season. It feels really good to see the crowd get off their feet and cheer because I’ve never had the opportunity to prove myself and this was finally the moment.”
Determined to keep his team in the game Hart’s sophomore guard Dillon Barrientos put his head down and drove into the lane on back-to-back possessions to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 37-34 with under 2:30 left in the half.
Barrientos finished the game with 20 points and three rebounds.
Down 42-34 and beginning the second half in a press, Hart (8-17, 3-6) did a good job of disrupting the West Ranch offense, but thanks to the ball-handling skills of Williams and bench players Clyde Seo and Dylan Stuman the Wildcats extended the lead to double digits with under a minute to go at 63-47.
Needing buckets, Hart turned to Barrientos again as he blew by Wildcats defenders to score 11 of his 20 points in the second half.
With momentum in Hart’s favor, West Ranch head coach Ron Manalastas opted to have Stangl guard the much smaller Barrientos.
On a fastbreak, Barrientos looked like he was going to have a wide-open layup, but Stangl tracked him all the way from above half court to come up with the big block.
“When you are playing a guy the same size, you are pretty shifty and can get your shots up,” Manalastas said. “If you put a guy like Deaken on you, it’s a little hard. He did a good job.”
With under three minutes to go in the game, the Indians did a good job of converting 3’s and free throws to close the gap to single digits, but West Ranch followed by dumping the ball into the post to senior Alex Grant who scored four straight points to keep the Wildcats ahead and seal the win.
“We battled our tails off,” said Hart head coach Tom Kelly. “We needed a couple key stops and they got a couple key second shots that hurt us, but they are a little bigger and stronger and they are senior heavy so hats off to them.”
West Ranch has one game left against Golden Valley at Golden Valley at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Hart hosts Saugus for its Senior Night at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.