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Foothill League boys basketball: Wildcats hold off pesky Hart

West Ranch goes back and forth with Indians, but ultimately gets league victory No. 1

Posted: January 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 11, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

Down three points midway through the third quarter and with momentum squarely in the opposite corner, the West Ranch boys basketball team was on the verge of falling out of its Foothill League opener with Hart at Hart High School on Tuesday night.

But right on cue, Wildcats guard Kevin Harris rattled off eight points and an assist to put West Ranch ahead and wrangle back momentum on the way to a 74-71 West Ranch victory.

Trailing 44-41 with 4:16 remaining left in the third quarter, the Indians’ Nico Cruz had a layup waved off because of an offensive foul, and the Wildcats (7-8, 1-0) responded with a 9-0 run, led by Harris, to take a 50-47 lead with 2:33 left in the third.

“(Harris) is just a gamer,” said West Ranch head coach Shant Bicakci. “He scored (eight) points in a row and only one play came off a set play.”

Harris would go on to score a game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shot attempts — including 11 points in the third quarter to put West Ranch ahead 56-47 headed into the final period.

“I’m usually a scorer,” Harris said. “If I don’t produce, we have a tough time.”

Aiding Harris was West Ranch center Ako Kaluna, who scored 20 points, almost exclusively in the paint.

“He’s the biggest player but he’s so versatile,” Bicakci said. “He’s the best player in the league. And Harris is No. 2.”

The Indians (10-7, 0-1), though, would fight back.

Freshman guard Myles Franklin and Lewis Stallworth each scored 19 points to lead the team and help keep the Indians within striking distance.

With 2:20 left, the Indians found Cruz wide open under the basket for a layup to give the Hart a 67-66 lead.

That lead wouldn’t last though, as the Wildcats responded with a four-point run to take a 71-67 lead with just over a minute to play.

Hart sharpshooter Austin Maly — who had been kept quiet for most of the night — got to the line for a one-and-one to pull Hart within two points and set up what looked to be a dramatic ending.

Maly finished with seven points on 2-of-12 shooting.

After West Ranch threw the ball away, Hart inbounded the ball with 41.2 seconds to play and down two points — but the Indians returned the favor with a turnover of their own.

Kaluna went to the line with a chance to ice the game, but missed two free throws to give Hart another shot, down two points with 37.5 seconds to play.

But another turnover on a steal by West Ranch’s Bo Vaughn led to an easy layup and essentially ended the game.

“I was disappointed from the tip to the buzzer,” said Hart head coach Tom Kelly. “This is league play. You can’t have so many turnovers on inbounds plays. You can’t have it.”

In the other locker room though, the Wildcats were ecstatic.

“I’m proud of those guys because everybody talked about our record coming in," Bicakci said. "We were 6-8. What we told (the kids) was these tough (preleague) games have to translate to league now.”

On Tuesday night, they translated just fine.

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