West Ranch boys basketball snapped a three-game losing streak on Friday night by beating Hart, 86-74, at Hart High School.
“It’s big for our confidence, especially for the seniors,” said West Ranch head coach Jeff Bryant. “They were excited to come here and play.”
Neither the Indians nor the Wildcats (13-13 overall, 4-5 Foothill League) would relent. The opening minutes of the game were identical on both sides of the ball. The Indians scored first with a three, the Wildcats responded with their own. Hart made two free throws, West Ranch landed two as well.
“When you trade buckets, you’re going to lose,” said Hart head coach Tom Kelly. “You’ve got to get stops and scores. We haven’t developed that mentality all year.”
What set the two teams apart was a minute difference just two-and-a-half minutes into the contest. West Ranch’s Max Morales (24 points) responded to a Ruke Agbabune (five points) 3-pointer with one of his own. The difference was Morales turned it into a four-point play to give the Wildcats a one-point edge.
“We knocked down shots tonight,” Bryant said. “Max Morales was big for us. He’s our energy guy. He’s always locked down on defense and when he’s knocking down shots, it makes him that much better.”
The second quarter featured a battle of freshmen. West Ranch’s Andrew Meadow (10 points) and Hart’s Brady Dunlap (18 points) went back and forth trading 3-pointers and lay-ins to get the crowd pumped up.
It was raining indoors. Both teams executed nearly flawlessly from behind the arc. In the first half alone, there were 13 3-point shots. The onslaught of points led to a score of 45-41 at halftime with West Ranch having the advantage.
The Indians (16-11, 6-3) attempted to bring the game within a possession when Isaac Deedon delivered a ball to Ty Penberthy, who knocked down a long-range 3-pointer. However, West Ranch’s Clyde Seo (24 points) executed an athletic euro step layup to give the Wildcats a four-point halftime lead.
The Indians were poised to start the half with the ball, but a foul immediately after the inbound turned possession over to the Wildcats. That turnover foreshadowed the woes Hart would see and the good fortune that would behoove West Ranch.
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“We didn’t guard anybody,” Kelly said. “Too many straight-line drives, too many second shots, no defensive effort tonight.”
The Wildcats responded to the turnover with an immediate 3-pointer from Morales. From that point forward, West Ranch looked unstoppable, scoring any time they approached the basket. They rolled through the end of the game with the Indians in chase, benefitting from open shots and fouls on made buckets for extra points until the eventual 10-point victory.
“This is how we should have been playing all year,” Bryant said. “I told the guys before the game and all week at practice, ‘Let’s have fun. We’re still playing for something. We’re still playing for West Ranch. We’re still playing for respect.’ We came out and got a big win tonight. I’m proud of the guys.”
Three key pieces to the Wildcat’s success were Morales, Seo, Sage Kita (three points) and Jonah El-Farra (16 points). They combined for a total of 67 points between the four. Kita’s three-point contribution may have been small on the scoreboard, but his versatility opened the floor for other shooters.
“They did what they were supposed to do,” Bryant said. “They’re such a tight-knit (group). They grew up playing together. They’re all like brothers. One thing they didn’t do, they haven’t quit on us even with our losing streak.”
Penberthy shined for the Indians during his last home game and finished with 14 points. He was supported by Dillon Barrientos (10 points), his brother Jaden Penberthy (seven points), Deedon (10 points) and Dunlap.
Foothill League boys basketball will conclude Friday night. Hart will travel to Saugus and West Ranch will return home to host Golden Valley. Both games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Saugus 73, Canyon 44
The Centurions’ win over the Cowboys on Tuesday night slid them into a tie for second place with Hart.
Nate Perez led the Centurions (18-8 overall, 6-3 Foothill League) with 29 points and six rebounds. Adrian McIntyre was added 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals. Kyle Santiago had six points and four assists.
Anthony Gallo led the Cowboys (13-14, 3-6) with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. Connor Cooper had eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks, while Miles Davis had six points and seven rebounds.
Saugus will conclude the season at home against Hart. Canyon will play at home against Canyon. Both games are on Friday at 6:30 p.m.