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Foothill League boys basketball: ’Cats’ eyes on the prize

West Ranch boys are one win away from claiming at least a share of their first Foot

Posted: February 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

No hope for a letdown here.

Not this West Ranch boys basketball team.

Four days after a dramatic double overtime loss to Canyon, West Ranch used a strong third quarter on its way to a bounce-back 65-55 win over Saugus on Tuesday night at Saugus High School.

The Wildcats (13-10, 7-2) remain co-leaders in the Foothill League and can clinch a share of their first-ever league championship with a win at Valencia on Friday.

“It’s tough,” said West Ranch head coach Shant Bicakci of his team’s 98-90 loss on Friday. “No matter what, it’s tough coming off a double-overtime game against Canyon. We had no choice but to move forward.”

West Ranch took care of business thanks mostly to a 15-0 run that spanned both halves and extended a 29-27 halftime lead to a 41-27 advantage midway through the third.

During the stretch, Saugus (14-11, 4-5) turned the ball over four times and missed seven of its first eight shot attempts of the second half.

Clark Stokes benefitted most from Saugus’ woes, scoring seven of his 10 points during the run.

Ako Kaluna led all scorers with 20 points, and he was a headache for Saugus on the defensive end.

“They were a lot quicker than us,” said Saugus head coach Derek Ballard. “The whole game, they were a lot quicker. They’re a good team.”

Though the Wildcats’ lead went above 15 points, they were in control the rest of the way with stifling, pressure defense and efficiency on the offensive end.

Kaluna worked the post while Stokes and Kevin Harris mixed in enough 3-pointers to loosen up Saugus’ defense.

“We just came out with defensive intensity,” said West Ranch forward Kyle Williams, “We were getting turnovers and we were scoring off of those, getting easy buckets. We just wanted to run away with it.”

Harris ended up with 15 points, which were boosted by late free throws that helped ice the game away in the fourth quarter.

“We get tired,” Ballard said. “That’s been the problem since we feel like our depth hasn’t been great.”

Matt Coleman turned in a scrappy performance for the Centurions, scoring 11 points and playing well on defense.

Jeremy Gatewood led Saugus with 17 points, which included a stretch where he scored eight straight to give his team a 27-26 lead with a minute to go in the second quarter.

That was the last time the Centurions led.

The loss keeps Saugus at fourth place in league and two games behind third-place Hart.

An at-large playoff bid is still likely for Saugus given its divisional ranking.

As for West Ranch, a Friday victory at Valencia could make history.

“We remembered we were still tied for first place. We’re still in contention to win league,” Williams said. “We just wanted to come out today and go 1-0.”

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