West Ranch basketball advances, beats Edison 

West Ranch guard Bishop Brooks (1) jumps up for a shot against Edison center Dane Johnson (3) during the second quarter of Wednesday's game on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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For the fourth straight year, West Ranch Wildcats boys’ basketball won its playoff opener.  

The Wildcats took down the visiting Edison Chargers, 57-42, on Wednesday in the opening round of the CIF Division 1 playoffs.  

West Ranch (15-13) got off to a hot start in both halves and led 9-2 right out of the gate. The Wildcats broke inside for layups while sharpshooters like Zach Bauman stayed ready on the perimeter to knock down their shots. 

West Ranch senior James Evans (5) goes up for a layup during the third quarter of Wednesday’s game against Edison on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

The Cats exploded again in the third and nearly took a dominant 20-point lead. West Ranch ran its full-court press nearly perfectly, leading to numerous traps, steals and turnovers. 

Edison (20-9) made some big shots in the fourth quarter but just couldn’t muster up enough offense to cut the deficit back into single digits. 

One of the biggest difference makers was the Wildcats’ overwhelming size advantage. West Ranch head coach Jeff Bryant played both of his towering forwards, Tracy Bryden and Prince Okonkwo. 

West Ranch forward Prince Okonkwo (10) dunks the ball during the third quarter of Wednesday’s game on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“We played the two bigs together, Prince and Tracy, and they were too much to deal with,” Bryant said in a phone interview. “Our guards also started attacking the rim and getting easy buckets inside the paint. Scoring inside was the difference.” 

Bryden and senior James Evans led the team with 17 points and 11 rebounds apiece. Bryden also added three blocks. Okonkwo also nearly added a double-double after finishing with nine points and nine boards.

West Ranch center Tracy Bryden (21) looks for an opening against Edison during the second quarter of Wednesday’s game on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Bauman also played well and added 11 points for the Wildcats. 

West Ranch is off to a hot start in the Division 1 playoffs. The team was aiming for a return to the Open Division, but haven’t shed a tear about now competing for the Division 1 crown.  

“Division 1 is still big-boy basketball,” Bryant said. “Division 1 is just as loaded as the Open Division. There’s no drop-offs there. We have to come in and play our best or we’ll be going home early. The goal is still to win a championship, it doesn’t matter what division you’re in.” 

West Ranch point guard Darrell Morris (3) dribbles the ball during the third quarter of Wednesday’s game against Edison on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

West Ranch now hits the road for a second-round matchup with the Santa Margarita Eagles (18-10).  

The Eagles enter the playoffs as an at-large team from the competitive Trinity League that sent its top three seeds into the Open Division. Santa Margarita started off the postseason hot with a lopsided 72-55 win over Oxnard. 

West Ranch has had success throughout the past few postseasons but will be seeking its first road playoff win in three years. 

“We have to be road warriors,” Bryant said. “We know to get to our ultimate goal we’ll have to be able to win on the road.” 

West Ranch and Santa Margarita tip off on Friday at 7 p.m. 

West Ranch forward Prince Okonkwo (10) misses a dunk against Edison forward Jaxon Gorden (42) during the second quarter of Wednesday’s game on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
West Ranch point guard Carsen Yahata (0) dribbles the ball during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game against Edison High School on Feb. 7. Habeba Mostafa/The Signal

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