By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The West Ranch Wildcats hold the highest odds of any of the Santa Clarita Valley high school teams to win the CIF championship. After steamrolling through the Foothill League and winning a consecutive league championship, it was no surprise to see another win in the first round of the playoffs.
The Wildcats beat the Orange Lutheran Lancers, 66-61, on Friday to advance to the second round of CIF playoffs. A fearless team will now have another chance to continue their season at home.
“I’ve thought about it since we lost in the playoffs last season,” said Wildcats coach Jeff Bryant when asked what it means for him to advance to the second round. “Every game is going to be tough. To make it out of the first round alive it feels good. It’s one game at a time. We got the first round out of the way, but now I’m going to check my phone and see who is next.”
The Lancers showed their toughness playing in one of the toughest leagues in Southern California. No matter what the Wildcats did, the Lancers would continue to have an answer.
In a game that got chippy early on, the Lancers managed to keep it a close game despite being down by as many as 12 points throughout the first two quarters of play. Cannon Potter led the Lancers with seven points in the first half while Jaqari Miles led the Wildcats with 10 points.
The Wildcats would hold a five-point lead coming into the third quarter, but Miles would drain two quick 3-pointers in a row to keep the Lancers at bay.
The Lancers would not quit and would be down just four points heading into the fourth quarter despite the Wildcats doing no wrong. Potter finished the game with 13 points and four rebounds.
The Wildcats stayed poised behind Miles, who finished with 26 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Bryce Cofield finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Andrew Meadow finished with 12 points and five rebounds and James Evans finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while leading his team in assists (5) and steals (4).
“It’s a great team win, especially since we lost last year in the third round,” said Evans. “We’re hoping to do a deep run. I wanted to get my teammates going and win the game. We can probably win a ring.”
Despite the statistical onslaught from the Wildcats, the Lancers kept it in single digits the entire second half, which included bringing it down to a four-point game with a minute to go.
A couple missed free throws from the Wildcats gave the Lancers one final shot with under 10 seconds to go. The Lancers’ 3-point miss would result in the final exclamation of the game, a windmill dunk from Evans to solidify the 5-point victory.
The Wildcats’ next match is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. with the opponent still waiting to be determined between St. Bernard and Brentwood School.