West Ranch girls basketball knocked out in semis

Maia Garrison (25) of West Ranch shoots against Palos Verdes defender Flavia Corral (14) at West Ranch High on Saturday, 021724. Dan Watson/The Signal
Maia Garrison (25) of West Ranch shoots against Palos Verdes defender Flavia Corral (14) at West Ranch High on Saturday, 021724. Dan Watson/The Signal
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West Ranch girls’ basketball’s resurgence this season got the team one game away from the CIF title match. 

The Palos Verdes Sea Kings knocked off the hosting Wildcats in a defensive Division 5A semifinal battle on Saturday. 

Both teams played tremendous defense but the Sea Kings prevailed, 54-39, and will advance to the title game next weekend.  

Palos Verdes (22-7) played a physical man-to-man defense and held West Ranch (19-13) to 10 points or less in every quarter. 

West Ranch has shined in third quarters as of late but was held without a field goal for nearly six minutes in the period. 

Although the second quarter was offensively tough for the Wildcats, the team’s defense held tall and came up with some key stops and turnovers.  

Maia Garrison made a huge impact under the basket, where she snagged eight rebounds and registered one block in the first quarter alone.  

Garrison finished the game with six points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. 

Senior Alanna Topete could tell right away she’d be relentlessly face-guarded as Palos Verdes sophomore Maddie Farnsworth fouled her two seconds into the game.  

“I thought we fought through (the defense) well,” said Wildcats coach Paul Gross. “I thought we did a good job of getting good shots and good looks. It was just one of those nights where they just didn’t go down.” 

For the Sea Kings, Farnsworth was key in slowing down Topete, while dropping a game-high 23 points on offense. The sophomore also finished with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. 

Palos Verdes freshman Quinn Tamashiro also played well and added 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a trio of steals. 

The duo of underclassmen had to fight through some tough defense but consistently knocked down tough shots. 

“We really worked hard and we had a good game plan,” Gross said. “I think we executed it. We made a couple of mistakes here or there but, for the most part, we were able to kind of bottle them up. They still hit shots on us, tough shots. As a coach and a defense, you just want to make them have to make tough shots, and if they make them you just have to accept it and we made them make tough shots. They made some more than I would have liked.” 

Topete was quiet in the first half but did most of her damage in the second. The Wildcat point guard drove by defenders numerous times for solid inside shots and put up 12 of her 17 points in the second half. 

Junior Aishwarya Sudan added eight points and three steals for West Ranch. 

West Ranch had just six wins last season and 12 months later came within a few missed shots of a trip to the CIF finals. Gross didn’t know what to expect with the team in his first season with the program but it’s needless to say he’s proud of their growth and playoff run. 

“When we took over in the summer, we didn’t know what to expect,” Gross said. “No one had these expectations. After last season where they were 6-21, we just said, ‘Let’s go to work and try to improve every day.’ To become what we were and win three playoff games and contend with a lot of really tough league teams, we made huge strides to get there. So they put in the right work, and they were committed. Everyone was there all the time. I’m very proud of the way we play. I’m proud of the commitment the girls put in.” 

West Ranch will have one more shot at a championship as the team’s win over Immaculate Heart notched the Wildcats a spot in the state tournament.  

The loss to the Sea Kings will sting for the moment but the Wildcats are eager to climb back into championship contention. 

“The goal is to go in there and see if we can win one playoff game,” Gross said. “That would be a huge accomplishment for a program that has never been to the state playoffs and it’s never been this far in the CIF playoffs in the school’s history. We’ll try to go out and give some team hell and see if it’s enough … This will take a sting here a little but we’ll get through it.” 

West Ranch finds out its state tournament path when the CIF releases its state brackets on Sunday, Feb. 25. 

Gallery below: Photos by Dan Watson/The Signal

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