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Prep basketball: ’Cats clutch in the fourth

Late rally helps West Ranch take third in tourney

Posted: December 11, 2010 11:26 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2010 11:26 p.m.

West Ranch forward Zach Farmer (4) shoots against Highland defender Dwayne Carter (20) Saturday at Canyon High.

 

One night after giving up 88 points to Valencia, West Ranch had one goal in mind — play defense.

When it mattered most in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats did just that.

West Ranch held off a second-half run by Highland of Palmdale and walked away with a 53-50 victory to earn third place in the Canyon Classic on Saturday night at Canyon High School.

Trailing 43-35 after three quarters of play, the Wildcats needed to stop the bleeding after Highland’s third-quarter scoring spree.

Their defense created turnovers when it needed to and West Ranch knocked down just enough shots, including forward Josh Caton’s layup with 40 seconds left to give West Ranch a 51-50 lead.

Wildcats point guard Brian Polynice added two free throws to seal it in the final seconds. He finished with eight points, including six in the final frame.

“We were just trying to get back in it,” Polynice said. “It was close. It was too close. The game was a lot closer than it should have been.”

Polynice scored two key baskets earlier in the quarter, both of which came in transition when he took the ball coast-to-coast.

“I was just trying to find my teammates ,and when I saw the fastbreak lane open, I just took it all the way,” Polynice said.
West Ranch (3-1) initially played solid zone defense, which prevented the Bulldogs’ tall post players from getting to the basket.

But it also allowed Highland to get open looks from 3-point range, most of which it didn’t hit.

In the first half, the Bulldogs were 3-for-15 from beyond the arc, which helped West Ranch go up 28-21 at the break.

Highland (2-2) came out on fire in the second half, closing the gap to 28-27 within the first minute of the third quarter.

Bulldogs guard Cody Rodino made three shots from long range in the quarter to help Highland take a 36-33 lead at the 4:05 mark.

As a team, Highland improved on a rough first and shot 35 percent in the contest.

Meanwhile, West Ranch couldn’t break through the Bulldogs’ low-post defense and was forced to shoot from the outside.
The Wildcats went cold from the floor, only making two field goals in the third.

In the fourth quarter, the aggressive defensive strategy started to catch up to Highland when center Aaron Jones picked up his fourth foul.

“We had one big guy in foul trouble and another big guy (forward Dwayne Carter) who pulled his hamstring, so we really had to make shots,” said Highland head coach Jeff Smith. “We were just a shot or two short.”

The Wildcats were led by guard Tyler Zelaya and forward Ako Kaluna, who both scored nine points.

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