West Ranch boys’ basketball (5-0, 1-0) defeated the visiting Canyon Cowboys (7-2, 0-1), 80-50, in their Foothill League opener on Tuesday.
The Wildcats had four players in double figures and were led by senior guard Jaqari Miles, who tallied up 16 points and three steals.
West Ranch won by 30, but the game was a great defensive battle for the majority of the night.
The undersized Cowboys did well slowing down the Cats’ high-flying offense.
Two consecutive 3-pointers from Canyon sophomore Eric Kubel closed the gap in the first quarter.
Kubel is a strong threat from the perimeter and led the Cowboys with 16 points.
“We’re trying to get better every day and that’s the goal,” said Cats head coach Jeff Bryant. “We want to prepare for good teams and want to prepare for a playoff run. So when we come out here and play our league games, we don’t want to take them lightly. We want to play them like we’re playing any other top team. And that’s kind of what we did tonight. We came out lackadaisical, turning the ball over, playing undisciplined on defense and they knocked down shots.”
West Ranch just kept finding ways to score and reigning Foothill League Player of the Year Andrew Meadow was a big part of keeping Canyon at an arm’s length.
“I think we came out slow and they played hard,” said Meadow. “Every team out here is gonna give us their best game so we just have to come out stronger next time from the tip.”
Meadow finished the night with 13 points.
Center Jazz Gardner was another standout for the Cats. The 7-footer racked up 14 points and three blocks in his Foothill League debut.
West Ranch would go into the halftime break up 40-32 but would need a lot to put Canyon away. The Cowboys sparked a 9-2 run to narrow the lead early in the third quarter, forcing a Wildcat timeout.
“I think we did a pretty good job the first three quarters of handling their pressure and dealing with their traps and the things that they do well, and they do a lot of things really well,” said Canyon head coach Ali Monfared. “In the fourth quarter we had a couple live ball turnovers and then we didn’t get safeties a couple times and so they were able to leak out and, in transition, I would argue that’s probably one of their biggest strengths.”
The Cats came out of the break swinging and jumped on a 6-0 run of their own to slowly start pulling away.
Good defense and smart passing would be the key to power West Ranch through the final minute of play. The team registered several steals while forcing Canyon to take tough shots. Too many bad plays piled up and before you knew it, the Wildcats had a huge lead.
West Ranch’s late defensive efforts were clear in the numbers. Canyon scored 19 in the first quarter but was limited to just 18 in the second half.
“I thought we closed out very well,” said Bryant. “We probably won the fourth quarter close to 20 points but we can’t be in that situation. We want to be one of the top teams and play with the best of the best. We can’t keep the game that close.”
The Cats have now won 25 straight Foothill League games and will look to make it 26 on Friday when the team heads to Saugus at 6:30 p.m.
West Ranch looks strong early with a ton of new pieces meshing well together. Bryant has a deep team and was able to give nearly every player on his roster important minutes. The group will continue to work on their chemistry as they gear up for a third straight league title.
“I feel like we’re 60 to 70% of our full potential,” said Meadow. “I think as the season goes on, we’ll be all the way at 100%.”
Canyon will return home for non-league action on Thursday when the team hosts Verdugo Hills at 6:30 p.m. The Cowboys will remain for a few more games and host Golden Valley on Tuesday.
The loss on Tuesday was Canyon’s second-lowest scoring performance on offense while allowing the most points this season by far to the Wildcats. The Cowboys know they were right there in this game and are looking forward to the rematch.
“We were never gonna come in here and be afraid of anything,” said Monfared. “Our guys have so much heart and they came in and honestly this early in the year, I felt like we did what we wanted to set out to do now. The result wasn’t in our favor, but I feel like we’re getting better at the details that we need to be better at. And we’ll see what happens next time we play them on Jan. 13.”