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Wildcats fall on miracle moment

Paraclete registers four-point play as time expires to sink ’Cats

Posted: December 10, 2009 10:19 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 
West Ranch was part of a thrilling finish Thursday at the Canyon Classic.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they were on the wrong side of the drama.

Up three points with 8.2 seconds left in regulation, the Wildcats gave up a four-point play to Paraclete of Lancaster’s Nikko Mendoza, falling 59-58 on Thursday in pool play of the Canyon Classic at Canyon High School.

West Ranch head coach Sean LeGaux’s head dropped, seemingly in disbelief when the 3-pointer fell.

“Oh darn it,” LeGaux said, thinking of the moment the final basket was made. “I saw our guy jump to block, and that wasn’t good. We talked about guarding the 3-point line. Give up a layup if you have to. We just didn’t do it for whatever reason.”

After Wildcat junior guard Martin Flowers hit 1-of-2 free throws to build a 58-55 lead prior to the Spirits’ final possession, Mendoza hit nothing but net and drew the foul.

With no time left on the clock, the senior guard sunk the game-winning free throw for Paraclete (7-2).

“I just focused on the shot. I didn’t worry about the foul,” Mendoza said. “I saw the basket. I just took it. That free throw, scariest moment of my life probably. I’m still shaking.”

Flowers and teammate Zach Farmer each finished with 10 points to lead the Wildcats (0-2), which shot 9-of-15 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

“It shouldn’t have come to that,” Flowers said. “We missed a lot of layups and a lot of free throws. I missed that free throw, and if I made both of those free throws, we’d still be playing right now. But sill, it’s not really that, we just didn’t work for it.”

West Ranch built a 16-14 lead in the first quarter, but fell behind 34-31 going into halftime thanks to a sluggish shooting performance in the second.

At the break, LeGaux shuffled his lineup, bringing in Brian Polynice and Kyle Blevins off the bench.

They combined for eight points in the third quarter, and they helped foster a high-energy attack and a physicality that Paraclete head coach Bernard Nichter said his team struggled with.

“I think (we) were caught off guard with it,” Nichter said. “We haven’t had a team that was that physical with us in a while.”

West Ranch took a 46-40 lead into the fourth quarter, but that’s when senior guard Wesley McCurtis took over.

McCurtis scored six of his 21 points in the final frame, including one of his four 3-pointers and a three-point play.

Assisted by a smothering midcourt trap and Christian Sveiven’s six fourth-quarter points, Paraclete chipped the lead down to two prior to Flowers’ free throw.

West Ranch senior guard Luke Hangen scored nine points, teammate Elias Lucas had eight points and Alex Lucas had seven.

LeGaux said that he expects growing pains, especially since he returned only two players from last season’s varsity roster. He also noted that this type of preseason experience will be invaluable later one.

“There wasn’t a single guy on the floor at the end of the game who was with us last year,” he said. “They are all brand new, so it’s a learning experience.”

West Ranch will play Eastside at 6:45 p.m. today as tournament action continues.


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