West Ranch Wildcats girls’ basketball shifted into a new gear in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s showdown with the Simi Valley Pioneers.
The Wildcats trailed for the majority of the non-league contest due to the Pioneers’ overwhelming rebounding.
West Ranch started hitting consistent shots from behind the arc and were sparked by point guard Alanna Topete’s interior scoring and ability to get to the free throw line.
The Cats won the game, 54-45, behind Topete’s near triple double. The Wildcat point guard racked up 17 of her 19 points in the second half while also totaling 10 rebounds and seven steals in the win.
West Ranch (2-1) had trailed by just a few scores for most of the game but was in danger of going down double-digits in the third quarter. Senior guard Aubrey Molina hit three straight triples to bring her team within three points of Simi Valley (1-3).
The West Ranch pair’s dynamic two-way outing was key for picking up the first home win for first-year head coach Paul Gross as a Wildcat.
“We talked about how our energy wasn’t where it needed to be,” Gross said. “I think the important thing is that we always emphasize and make sure that we’re playing as hard as we can the whole time. It felt like we had lulls in the first half.”
Molina hit six 3-balls and finished the night with a game-high 20 points and three steals.
Simi Valley was able to build its lead thanks to strong interior performances from seniors Hailey Ginnever and Abigail Degnan. Ginnever registered a double-double before halftime and finished the game with 17 points and as many rebounds with three blocks. Degnan cleaned up the boards in the second half, during which she added the majority of her five points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and a pair of steals.
Junior Sahasra Anne also gave the Pioneers a boost in the first half with four 3-pointers.
The Wildcats moved the ball around well in the first half and found numerous open shots behind the arc. While everything didn’t fall for West Ranch, the team lived with the shots as the interior was clogged by Simi Valley’s 3-2 zone and tall front court. Once Topete found her rhythm in the second, she was nearly unstoppable getting to the rim.
West Ranch has two solid wins already but a tough path ahead in league play. Gross has been pleased with the team’s ability to pick up new schemes and systems in his short time with the program.
“When you get a new coach, new situation, new players, as much as you try to prepare throughout the summer and fall, it takes time,” Gross said. “This was a great game for us to learn some of the things that they were doing, how we beat that, how we need to handle things and where the adjustments are.”
The Pioneers return to the court on Monday against St. Monica in tournament play. West Ranch picks up some early momentum before Foothill League play begins next week.
The Wildcats make the short trip up the freeway to take on Castaic on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
West Ranch has a strong chance of extending its win streak to three games and perhaps more if the team can keep up the same intensity and energy displayed in the second half on Wednesday.
“Our process and our principle is, ‘Let’s do it next time,’” Gross said. “We play our next game on Tuesday. So we have to make sure we get that intensity on Tuesday and find a way to win.”