In the first 16 minutes of the boys basketball CIF-Southern Section Division 2A quarterfinal matchup between West Ranch and No. 1 seed Colony on Thursday, the Wildcats held their own.
In fact, they held a two-point lead after the first quarter and went into halftime trailing by only two.
However, Colony capitalized on West Ranch’s mistakes in the second half, outscoring the home team 18-5 in the third quarter to pull away with a 64-38 win.
“I think halftime has always been a problem. Everytime we come out of that second half we start a little flat, and you can’t come out flat against a team like Colony,” West Ranch head coach Ron Manalastas said. “We had our moments where we could have finished and we didn’t. We missed those opportunities and we turned the ball over. That’s just a recipe for disaster and they took advantage of it. They got steals and layups off our turnovers.”
West Ranch got off to a fast start, with senior Alex Grant hitting a 3-pointer and senior Robbie Myers using his physicality to score down low. Myers got a big offensive rebound and putback to give the Wildcats a 9-7 advantage.
Junior Clyde Seo was also active in the initial frame, utilizing his ability to handle the ball and get into the paint to draw contact. He also had the assignment of guarding Colony’s go-to player Sedrick Altman, who was kept in check for the most part in the first half, before breaking out in the last two quarters.
Seo started in place of senior Deaken Stangl, who was suspended for an altercation at the conclusion of West Ranch’s game against Peninsula on Tuesday.
The junior kept attacking in the second quarter, driving past defenders and finishing in the paint through contact.
Senior Carter Williams executed a Madden-esque spin move to get into the paint and hit a tough shot. Then Grant got in the lane and put up a baby hook to keep the score close.
“I’m not sure people thought we were going to do as well as we did, I really don’t think so. I think people might have underestimated the guys that I had, but not me,” Manalastas said. “I think those boys had something to prove. They went out and played with chips on their shoulders.”
Trailing 30-28 at intermission, the last 16 minutes looked like it would be tight, however missed shots and turnovers plagued the Wildcats.
Altman caught fire, scoring two quick buckets for Colony and assisting on a third basket, putting the Titans up 36-28 in the blink of an eye.
Then two Altman dunks made the score 40-28, and the game started to slip away from West Ranch.
Trailing 44-30, junior guard Max Morales came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer, but Colony quickly scored off the made basket to push the advantage back to 13 points.
The fourth quarter mirrored the third, as West Ranch couldn’t get anything going offensively and Altman continued his stellar performance, completing an and-one halfway through the frame to put the game out of reach.
Grant led the Wildcats with 14 points and six rebounds. Seo added nine points and two boards and Myers logged eight points, three rebounds (all offensive) and two assists.
After the game, Manalastas spoke with his team, keeping his seniors in the locker room for a few extra minutes.
“I told them I’m going to miss them. I couldn’t have started a coaching career in boys basketball better than with those seven boys,” he said about his seniors. “I’m going to miss them, that’s what I told them.”
Having completed a successful first-year as the varsity boys head coach, Manalastas said he’s not going to waste any time now that the season is over.
He’s going to continue to learn, study and get better, as he continues to develop West Ranch into a boys basketball powerhouse for years to come.
“I’m going to go look for clinics, professional development, go visit coaches, pick brains, get better at the craft,” he said. “If I want to stay in this business I got to get better and I got to evolve with the game. I plan on doing what I do. Study, get better and learn from your mistakes. No time off.”