West Ranch Wildcats boys’ basketball showed no signs of missing two starters in Saturday’s win in the West Ranch Showcase.
The shorthanded Wildcats sparked instantly and rode a 25-0 run to open the game and never let up. West Ranch hammered the Grant Lancers 68-31, without starting wings James Evans and Isaiah Fields.
The Cats (22-1) had four players in double figures on the way to the blowout win. The team was led by senior Andrew Meadow, who poured in 18 points with seven rebounds.
Strong shooting starts from Meadow and shooting guard Jaqari Miles led to the opening run in the team’s eighth straight win.
“We were trying to focus on getting our plays and running them all the way through, looking at the different options we have,” Miles said. “When it comes to open division playoffs, we’re ready for every other option.”
Miles finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Grant (12-8) didn’t set up many offensive sets in the first quarter. The Lancers opted to take deep or contest looks from outside the arc, avoiding West Ranch center Jazz Gardner. The 7-footer swatted the few inside Grant shots got off and allowed nothing easy under the rim.
Gardner racked up 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
West Ranch never let up. The Wildcats went into halftime with a 51-11 lead and after a few offensive possessions in the third, the West Ranch starters were done for the day.
The Cats were able to clear the bench and get their reserves a substantial amount of playing time, something head coach Jeff Bryant knows will be vital down the road.
“I just want them to get more and more time on the court,” Bryant said. “So, if I need to go to them in the playoffs, they’ll be ready.”
Bryant wasn’t too surprised with the scoreboard to start the game. The head coach was simply pleased with the team’s energy to start the game.
“’I’m not surprised, because we’ve done it before,” Bryant said. “And that was kind of our goal, not to go on a 25-0 run, it just happened that way. But to come out here and get stops, rebounding the basketball and just playing the right way.”
The team has plenty of athleticism, outside shooting and strong defenders. However, Miles believes it will still be the little things that take this team far.
“We just gotta keep playing the same way and keep playing as a team,” Miles said. “Making extra passes, boxing out and that’s gonna take us far.”
Saturday’s final marked the third game of the season in which West Ranch had held a team to 31 points. That defensive intensity will also be key for the team come February.
“Defense is feeling good,” Bryant said. “We could be a really good defensive team. We just have to trust each other. We want to apply a lot of ball pressure because if we do get blown by, we got a 7-footer meeting you at the rim, so that’s a luxury to have.”
West Ranch enters the second half of its league season on Tuesday when the team hosts the Saugus Centurions. The Wildcats won’t expect to blow every opponent out but Bryant aims to keep the group humble while having a champion’s mentality.
“I want the boys to stay humble and have some humility, because we’re gonna have games like this where we’re blowing teams out,” Bryant said. “But this is kind of our test. Championship teams, no matter who they play, they go out there and take care of business. They play the same way no matter what. So, it’s a test for us. We passed it tonight and I’m looking to keep it going.”