The West Ranch boys basketball team began its opening-round matchup against Village Christian in the Burbank High School Tourney optimistic even with two of their players out due to injury on Tuesday.
Seniors Clyde Seo and Cooper Ney sat on the bench and looked on as 6-foot-6 senior forward/center Jonah El Farra shouldered the scoring in the opening minutes for the Wildcats.
With El Farra providing a low-post presence and the Wildcats playing intense defense, West Ranch hung with the Crusaders through the first half, but couldn’t sustain the scoring for the full 32 minutes of play and fell 73-61.
El Farra finished the game with a double-double and a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s our workhorse and we always try to establish him first and when defenses collapse on Jonah, we try to kick it out to our perimeter guys,” said West Ranch head coach Ron Manalastas.
West Ranch freshman Andrew Meadow made an early appearance coming off the bench for the Wildcats and immediately made an impact with his quick jumping ability and nose for the basket.
He tied the game at 14-14 with a bucket for West Ranch (2-3 overall) and came down the court and played physical defense to force a bad shot and get the rebound.
Just before the end of the quarter, Jordan Fuller hit a corner 3 to give Village Christian a 19-16 advantage.
Meadow and El Farra began the second quarter on the bench, but Wildcats guards Sage Kita and Dylan Stuman forced the Crusaders (5-2) into turnovers due to West Ranch’s traps and the press.
“When it works, it works,” Manalastas said. “I’m not worried about the guys in the front, it’s the guys in the back that need to be assertive and have to be able to anticipate, kind of like a safety in football, you have to read the eyes of the guys and rotate off that.”
Stuman finished with 14 points and three steals and Kita had four points and two steals.
Holding a 35-33 advantage coming out of halftime, Village Christian’s Fuller began to assert himself on the offensive end driving hard to the basket.
After El Farra picked up his fourth foul, the Crusaders began to pull away, implementing a full-court press and zone defense that didn’t allow West Ranch to operate their offense as effectively as they did in the first half of play.
“Kids have played against zone their whole entire lives, kids play so much travel ball and so much basketball that they have seen zone,” Manalastas said. “Our problem is that we have a tendency to over-dribble instead of moving the ball and swinging the ball and making the defense shift, we dribble. As soon as you pass one guy the next guy is there and it’s not in your best interest to dribble.”
The Crusaders pushed a seven-point lead in the third quarter to 13 points halfway through the fourth quarter to win by double digits and hand West Ranch their third loss of the season.