Friday night’s Foothill League matchup between West Ranch Wildcats boys’ basketball and the Valencia Vikings was a prime example of how one bad quarter can flip a game.
West Ranch won the physical bout at home, 74-63, with most of the damage coming in a dynamic second quarter.
The Wildcats (5-2, 4-0) outscored the Vikings (4-5, 1-3) 28-4 in the quarter, limiting Valencia to just two field goals while the West Ranch offense feasted.
Cats senior James Evans led the way with 23 points while Bishop Brooks added 19 points and nine rebounds.
“From the jump, our coach gave us a game plan to score layups, get to the rim, no threes,” Evans said. “So we executed the game plan, defended well, and got to the rim.”
Brooks hit back-to-back 3-pointers that sparked an 11-0 run to start the quarter. The senior guard also scored a buzzer beater on a spinning lay-in to put West Ranch up 43-20 at the half.
Outside of the quarter, the game was all Valencia despite the team’s top player having a quiet night.
“It hurts when you look at the book,” said Vikes coach Bill Bedgood. “I feel like we were the better team for a lot of the night. I felt like we were really prepared, I liked our game plan. I hate playing league games early because we’re still trying to figure out our own team. It’s fast-tracked some things.”
The Vikings outscored the Wildcats in the first, third and fourth quarters. All-CIF forward Bryce Bedgood was physically face-guarded all night by Cats sophomore Prince Okonkwo. Bedgood still took care of business on defense with seven blocks but had a mundane night for his standards, with nine points and five rebounds.
Wildcats coach Jeff Bryant believed his team drifted from the game plan in the opening quarter but thrived when executing it in the second. Nonetheless, holding Bedgood in check was the defensive focus.
“That was our focus, take away 35,” Bryant said. “We knew if we could take away 35, then we had a good chance to win the basketball game. Prince did a good job at that. Bryce had his way on defense and he was blocking every shot that Prince put up but Prince is still learning. So I think he learned a lesson tonight but he did a real good job defensively and on the glass.”
The road team came out with a ton of energy and hit four 3-balls in the first, including two from senior Jacob Michel-Zavala.
Valencia erupted in the second half as the team seemingly couldn’t miss from behind the arc.
After going scoreless in the first half, senior Ashton Carraway poured in 19 points in the second half. Vikes point guard Stacy Webb also had a big second half, where he added 12 of his 15 points. Webb also finished with six assists and three steals.
West Ranch had some early turnovers and settled for 3-point shots in the third quarter. The team had cooled off from its second-quarter scoring frenzy, which allowed Valencia to cut the lead to 15.
Webb went on a solo 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter to put the Vikes within 10.
Carraway and Webb are both starters but their standout performances showcased the team’s depth.
“It was so good to see. We have a lot of confidence in those guys,” coach Bedgood said. “They have so much potential. They’re great kids and coachable. They’ve been frustrated with their play and how we coach them because we’re expecting a lot of them. If you can play like those guys played, it’s gonna bode well for the rest of their season. They proved themselves tonight.
This is a deep team — we just haven’t shown it. Now we are showing it.”
Wildcats guard Darrell Morris swung the momentum back in his team’s favor when he launched a perfect lob up to Evans, who slammed in one of his easiest scores of the night.
Morris finished his night with seven points, six assists, a steal and a block.
Valencia’s Jacob Mazy hit his second 3-pointer of the night to cut the deficit to six points but West Ranch pulled away in the final two minutes.
“(Valencia) got going and I don’t think we had a good second half defensively. We have to focus on not getting too high. We have to understand this is four quarters and coaches are gonna make adjustments. Coach Bedgood is a great coach and he made adjustments in the second half. He figured us out and we didn’t make any adjustments. That’s why they were able to get on that run.”
A late corner 3-pointer from Cats senior Zach Bauman iced the game but Evans put a stamp on the win with a huge dunk as time expired.
Evans is still yet to lose a Foothill League game in his varsity career as the Wildcats have now won 40 in a row.
“We are resilient but at times we slow down and tend to let up,” Evans said. “Once we figure that out, weren’t not letting up and we’re gonna be one of the best teams out here for sure.”
Valencia will be off for over a week with some tough non-league competition ahead. The Vikings return to action on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. on the road against the defending Open Division state champs, the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines.
Bedgood is excited for his team to keep growing. The Valencia roster features numerous players from last season’s state championship team and while maybe a league title may be potentially drifting out of reach, the Vikings could return to the postseason for another deep playoff push.
“I’m very excited, the future’s bright but it doesn’t get any easier for us,” coach Bedgood said. “We’re at Harvard-Westlake and Sierra Canyon in a few weeks but I’m super excited about the second half of league and the tournaments we’re in. I think we can make a great playoff run if we get there. We’ll play tough teams early and allow our guys to learn lessons because we don’t wanna peak too early. They’re kids and they’re learning how to communicate and be better teammates. When all that comes into place, we’ll thrive. It doesn’t matter now but we need to be hitting our stride in January.”
The Cats still have Open Division aspirations and will play plenty more of the state’s best teams to build their resume.
“I’m hoping to see us develop and become a better team together defensively and offensively,” Evans said, “and maybe win an open division championship.”
West Ranch returns to the court on Friday at 7 p.m., for a home non-league matchup with the Village Christian Crusaders.
The Cats just have a few more outings before the sitout period ends and senior big man Tracy Bryden enters play. West Ranch will have Bryden for the remainder of league play and in the upcoming Classic at Damien tournament.
“I want to see us rebound the basketball better,” Bryant said. “I think we’ve done a terrible job at keeping teams off the offensive glass. But with Tracy coming back, we’re going to have more size. It’s gonna be hard to stop us with our two bigs, Tracy and Prince. I’m looking to play them together a lot.”