Castaic boys, West Ranch girls begin state basketball journeys 

Castaic shooting guard Giovanni Valentin (1) dribbles the ball against El Segundo junior Darreson Naruse (3) during the fourth quarter of Friday's CIF Southern Section Championship on Friday, Feb. 23. at Azusa Pacific University. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Castaic shooting guard Giovanni Valentin (1) dribbles the ball against El Segundo junior Darreson Naruse (3) during the fourth quarter of Friday's CIF Southern Section Championship on Friday, Feb. 23. at Azusa Pacific University. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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The Castaic boys and West Ranch girls have kept basketball fans in the Santa Clarita Valley engaged with their deep playoff runs this year. 

But their journeys aren’t over just yet. 

On Tuesday, the West Ranch Wildcats (19-13) host the Arleta Mustangs (21-11) in the first round of the CIF Division IV state tournament, while the Castaic Coyotes (19-14) go on the road to face the Westchester Comets (19-8), also in Division IV.  

Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. 

Coyotes aim to howl down Comets 

The Coyotes went from winless in the Foothill League this year to CIF Southern Section Division 5AA champions. 

Now, Castaic, seeded 12th, can take its talents to the state stage, though the Coyotes will have to do it on the road, taking on the fifth-seeded Westchester Comets. 

The Comets were an Open Division team in the CIF L.A. City Section postseason, dropping out in the first game to Chatsworth. That leaves them having not played a game since Feb. 9. 

Castaic looks to have the advantage putting the ball in the basket, averaging 68.2 points per game to Westchester’s 53.7, though the Comets have the advantage in preventing scoring, only allowing 46.7 points per game to opponents against 62.5 for Castaic. 

The Coyotes arguably had to face better competition throughout the year, though, with all but one of their six league opponents garnering playoff selections. Westchester tore through the Western League this season, going 10-2. 

In terms of individuals, Castaic boasts a handful of players who can lead the team on any given night in Giovanni Valentin, Lucas Milan, Christian Clark and Ethan Thomas. 

Can head coach Dominique Butler continue to lead the Coyotes to victory in his second year in charge of the program, and the team’s third overall? The answer will come on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Westchester High School. 

Wildcats look to tame Mustangs 

The Wildcats will have had 10 days off since their last game, a loss in the Southern Section semifinals. The Mustangs have also had some time off, with their last game coming on Friday, a loss in the City Section semifinals. 

Alanna Topete (24) of West Ranch fights past Palos Verdes defender Maddie Farnsworth (23) at West Ranch High on Saturday, 021724. Dan Watson/The Signal
Alanna Topete (24) of West Ranch fights past Palos Verdes defender Maddie Farnsworth (23) at West Ranch High on Saturday, 021724. Dan Watson/The Signal

Tuesday’s game will show which squad most effectively used its time off. 

West Ranch has been a group of road warriors this postseason, playing three of four games away from home. That one game was a loss, though, giving the Wildcats some motivation to give their fans something to cheer for. 

Arleta has been slightly better overall in terms of scoring, averaging 50 points per game to West Ranch’s 46.3, and the Mustangs have also been more secure on defense, giving up an average of 34.1 points to opponents compared to 42.9 for the Wildcats. West Ranch had to face a couple of Southern Section Division 1 powers this year in Canyon and Hart and finished fifth in the Foothill League, while Arleta finished second in the East Valley league. 

West Ranch is led by seniors Alanna Topete and Aubrey Molina, while Maia Garrison and Aiswarya Sudan add some firepower. 

Arleta has a couple of double-digit-per-game scorers in Aaliyah Serpas (15.8) and Justine Mejia (12.2). Serpas also averages five assists and 4.5 steals per game, while Mejia is adding 8.3 rebounds per game. 

The two teams kick off the state tournament on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at West Ranch High School. 

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