It was a special night for West Ranch boys basketball player Clyde Seo and the Wildcats in their final game of the regular season against Golden Valley at West Ranch on Friday.
Not only was it West Ranch’s Senior Night and quite possibly the final time that Seo and seven other seniors put on a Wildcats’ jersey, but it was also Seo’s 18th birthday.
Before the night’s festivities began, Seo and all eight West Ranch seniors (Cooper Ney, Sage Kita, Max Morales, Max Booth, Jonah El Farra, RJ Olmstead and Mason Savery) were honored and the West Ranch student section even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for Seo ahead of the opening tip.
Seo sank the Wildcats’ first shot with a pull-up jumper and West Ranch fed off the crowd’s and the night’s energy to hand Golden Valley a 70-44 loss and earn a win on Senior Night.
“I put so much into West Ranch,” Seo said. “Since freshman year, I’ve been on varsity and it has been such a ride. I’ve had four different coaches, I’ve been with my brothers on every team, we are so close and we went out on a win.”
Seo finished the game with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals and fellow senior Jonah El Farra finished with a game-high 16 points and 17 huge rebounds for a double-double.
West Ranch (14-13 overall, 5-5 Foothill League) jumped out to an 11-2 lead early on thanks to their 3-point shooting and a sloppy Golden Valley offense that turned the ball over multiple times in the first five minutes of the game.
Grizzlies’ guard Ayoub Payton did his best to break down the Wildcats defense by taking defenders off the dribble for acrobatic layups, while big-man Benicio Preciado went to work crashing the boards and getting second-chance opportunities for the visitors.
Payton led the Grizzlies with 15 points (three threes) and rebounds and Preciado with six points and 11 rebounds.
Golden Valley (5-20, 0-10) took its first lead of the game with under six minutes to go in the first half after a corner three by Payton and Anthony Milligan sank two free throws to go up 12-11.
Then El Farra and the West Ranch defense went to work.
Imposing his brute strength and size, El Farra was actively seeking to contribute in any way. Just before the end of the half, El Farra assisted on a bucket and on the ensuing West Ranch possession got the offensive rebound and putback to give the Wildcats a 25-17 lead heading into the half.
“Realizing that this is the last time with your friends and you have to make it count and make it a good night to remember,” El Farra said of his play.
The Grizzlies got within three points of the Wildcats with a Preciado 3-pointer, but was matched by a Seo and a Max Booth threes and to add insult to injury, West Ranch freshman Andrew Meadow sank a corner three and the clock expired.
The Wildcats pulled away in the fourth, but not after some theatrics by Golden Valley guard Luke Marich and West Ranch Sage Kita as they traded 3-point baskets.
Marich and Kita hit all of their points in the second half. Marich finished with 10 points (two threes) and six rebounds, while Kita finished with six points (two threes), two assists and two steals.
“It always hurts when a season ends because of the relationships that are built, they change,” said Golden Valley head coach Chris Printz.
“They don’t ever end, but they change. It’s always sad when you know that that group is not going to be together. What this group did and people can judge this group by wins and losses, but that’s not how we do it in education. When this program gets back to where it was, it’s because of this group and what they did and the foundation that they laid down. I have so many emotions, but I’m just sad that it’s over.”
West Ranch finishes in fourth place in the final league standings and awaits an At-Large big in Division 2AA on Sunday, while Golden Valley finishes sixth.
“I’m going to miss those guys,” said West Ranch head coach Jeff Bryant.”All the things that they have been through all season long, I’ve said it before, they never quit. They are all fight and no quit. Tonight they left it all out on the floor on Senior Night.”
Valencia 70, Canyon 56
The Vikings (23-5 overall, 9-1 Foothill League) win the Foothill League title outright and repeat as league champs with the win.
Noah Veluzat recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Junior Camacho had 18 points and three steals and Jake Hlywiak finished with a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds.
Kevin Konrad chipped in 12 points and five rebounds.
Canyon (13-15, 3-7) finishes in fifth place in Foothill League standings, while Valencia awaits their seeding in the Division 1 playoffs.