ROLLING HILLS ESTATES – The West Ranch boys basketball team traveled to Rolling Hills Estates on Tuesday night to take on Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A playoffs.
West Ranch’s guards drove the lane all night and hit big shots from the perimeter, while the bigs dominated in the paint on the way to a 64-55 victory for the Wildcats.
The veteran starting lineup consisting of five seniors set the tone early for West Ranch, building a lead that they would never relinquish.
The experience factor also came in big toward the end of the game when Peninsula was trying to make a comeback. Senior leaders Carter Williams and Robbie Myers made clutch free throws down the stretch to keep the Panthers at bay.
“It’s nice to have experience in situations when it’s close, it’s always a good thing. Our guys handled the adversity really well,” West Ranch head coach Ron Manalastas said. “We did have our moments, we got a little tight in the end. We knew they were going to foul, we knew we were going to have to knock down free throws and that’s exactly what we did.”
Senior Deaken Stangl got the Wildcats going with five quick points and finished the first quarter with 10 of the team’s 16 points. He finished the contest with 13 points, five rebounds, one assist, a steal and a block.
Junior Dylan Stuman didn’t hit the rim on his first 3-pointer of the game, prompting the Peninsula student section to chant “airball” every time he touched the ball.
Stumam quickly quieted the crowd with a big offensive rebound and put back as time expired in the first quarter.
He then swished a 3-pointer from a few feet behind the arc to start the second quarter, silencing the crowd once again.
“I don’t let the student section phase me. I’ve been here before,” Stuman said. “I just wanted to get here, get a win and get out.”
“It’s good to have short-term memory. You keep shooting and just shake it off and go. That’s what he does well, he doesn’t let anything phase him,” Manalastas said of Stuman. “He takes a bad shot or takes a shot where he doesn’t make it, he shakes it off and comes back again. That’s a sign of a good shooter.”
Stuman did a little bit of everything for the Wildcats, crashing the boards, finding his teammates for open looks and playing suffocating defense.
The junior sharpshooter finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and a steal.
“I do whatever my team needs me to do and tonight I had to rebound the ball and I did,” Stuman said. “I’m just happy we got a win.”
Peninsula played a zone defense for most of the game which allowed West Ranch to take advantage from the perimeter.
The Wildcats hit six 3-pointers, two from Stuman, two from Stangl and two from senior Alex Grant.
Like Stuman, Grant also airballed a 3-pointer earlier in the game, which the home crowd didn’t let him forget. And just like Stuman, Grant then nailed his next two 3-pointers in the third quarter, taking the crowd out of it for good.
“When I watched film on these guys I knew they were going to run a 1-3-1 zone, so I knew the spots where they were going to be vulnerable,” Manalastas said. “All week we prepped for it. We practiced a lot of 3’s this time around. At this time of the year in playoff basketball you have to find where the opponent’s weaknesses are or where you’re going to find shots and it just so happened the 3-ball was it today because they ran a 1-3-1.”
Grant finished with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. His frontcourt mate Myers added nine points, eight rebounds and a block.
Whenever West Ranch’s offense seemed to have a moment of stagnation, Stangl, Stuman and Williams ignited the offense by driving hard into the lane. The trio hit several tough contested shots in the paint, keeping the Wildcat’s lead in tact.
Williams finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks and came up with crucial plays down the stretch including big rebounds and clutch free throw shooting.
With the win, West Ranch advances to the third round of the playoffs and will take on Colony, who defeated Beaumont on Tuesday. The Titans are the No. 1 seed in the Division 2A bracket and will present a tough challenge for the Wildcats, but Manalastas said he has no doubts that his team will be ready to go.
“Colony is going to be tough. When they played Valencia they played them tough and well, but we’re going to do what we do. Get ready and prepare,” Manalastas said. “I have film on them so I’ll watch some game tape, but they are a No. 1 seed so you know they aren’t going to have a weakness.”