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Foothill League boys basketball: ’Cats co-lead at halftime

West Ranch boys pull into a tie for first place

Posted: January 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

West Ranch boys basketball knows where its at exactly halfway through Foothill League play.

Now it’s just a matter of maintaining it.

Thanks to a 56-43 victory over Valencia on Tuesday night at West Ranch High School, the Wildcats move into a tie for first place in the standings due to league-leading Canyon falling 59-56 to Hart.

“We want to keep it that way,” said West Ranch point guard Bo Vaughn, who scored 16 points.

For West Ranch (10-9, 4-1), it’s also the first win over Valencia since Feb. 1, 2008 when the Wildcats won 57-55.

This time around, the formula was simple.

“We play with speed, we play with aggressiveness and we come with tempo,” Vaughn said. “That’s our style of play.”

It was a style that kept Valencia’s usually high-powered offense at bay most of the night.

The last Valencia (14-7, 2-3) lead in the game was 4-2 early in the first quarter.

Other than that, the Wildcats stayed in control the rest of the way by hustling to loose balls and grabbing rebounds at the highest point.

West Ranch took advantage of momentum and transition plays multiple times, unleashing two separate nine-point scoring runs to take a 15-6 lead in the first quarter and later extending that lead to 30-17 until the 2:54 mark of the second quarter.

The Vikings’ best stretch of the game came in the closing minutes of the first half, where they closed the gap to 35-27 thanks to effective full-court pressure defense.

As a whole though, West Ranch’s defense was the story of the night.

“Holding a team of Valencia’s caliber to 43 points in a game, it’s just great,” said West Ranch head coach Shant Bicakci.

West Ranch players frequently stepped into passing lanes and anticipated where the ball was going, resulting in five blocked shots for the Wildcats and 19 Viking turnovers.

The Wildcats also cashed in plenty of times in the transition game with speedy guards Vaughn and Kevin Harris.

Harris finished with a game-high 18 points.

“They played better than us,” said Valencia head coach Rocket Collins. “That’s all. (Bicakci) outcoached me.”

In the third quarter, West Ranch forward Ako Kaluna slammed home a breakaway dunk shortly before Harris knocked down a 3-pointer to send the crowd into a frenzy and spark an 8-2 run that put the Wildcats ahead 46-34.

Valencia tried to feed the ball to forward Zach Davis inside, and although he led Valencia with 14 points, he was shut down in the fourth quarter.

Troy Hammel, who came into the game averaging more than 20 points per game, was surrounded by defenders Clark Stokes and Zac Nuttall most of the game, allowing Hammel to score just five points on 2-of-13 shooting.

Now, two-time defending league champion Valencia falls to a tie for fourth place, while the Wildcats are riding high at the top.

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