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Prep basketball: ’Cats can close

Fourth-quarter surge leads to West Ranch comeback win

Posted: November 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 28, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch's Kyle Williams (11) is fouled by Crespi's Max Heidegger on Tuesday at West Ranch High School.

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It was a case of don’t wake the sleeping giant at West Ranch High on Tuesday night.

After a fast start, the Wildcats boys basketball team fell into a 2 1/2 quarter slumber against visiting Crespi of Encino and its big man Ako Kaluna was more frustrated than productive.

Then a fourth-quarter surge keyed by an aggressive defense, a greater desire and the 6-foot-7-inch Kaluna led West Ranch to a 72-68 victory in the season opener.

Kaluna had 23 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter — a period the Wildcats came into trailing 52-47.

A key play in the turnaround came with a little over four minutes to play with Crespi holding possession.

The Celts threw up a pass at midcourt and Wildcat Kyle Williams tipped it to sophomore guard Ryan Beddeo.

Beddeo fed Kaluna, who charged the basket and threw down a two-handed dunk.

“It can kind of shut down another team’s spirit,” Kaluna said of a play like that, while breaking out in a big smile. “I felt a big change. I was waiting for it.”

Most of the people in the gymnasium were.

The reigning co-Foothill League champions and an early Foothill League title favorite for 2013, the Wildcats (1-0) jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the games’ opening minutes.

But the offense fell flat, the defense was charitable and the spacing on both ends wasn’t right.

It resulted in Crespi (0-1) closing the first quarter on a 20-5 run to end it with a 22-15 lead.

Through much of the game, West Ranch allowed the smallest kid on the court, 5-foot-7-inch freshman Max Heidegger and senior guard London Perrantes to break down the Wildcats’ defense at will.

Perrantes scored 22 points and Heidegger added 14 points.

Despite their effort, West Ranch took a 32-29 lead into halftime. Yet the Wildcats lost it in the third.

Much of the reason for that was Kaluna being triple-teamed at times and not getting into the flow of the offense and fellow All-Foothill League first-teamer Kevin Harris not getting involved in the offense.

Beddeo, who scored 12 points in the game, and Zac Nuttall, who had 11, had to carry the load early against the Celts — a team that was a CIF-Southern Section Division IVA semifinalist last season, but relies more on youth this season.

For most of the game it appeared as if West Ranch was trying to find itself.

“First game, yeah there’s always those first-game jitters. But no, we play to win. I don’t care if it’s the first game or last game,” said West Ranch head coach Shant Bicakci on if his team was just trying to get its feet wet.

Bicakci said the difference in the fourth quarter was that his team started to play team defense.

That was evidenced by the play that led to Kaluna’s dunk.

On the next possession, Crespi turned the ball over again and that led to Kaluna hitting a short hook shot with three defenders on him for a 58-54 lead.

Harris started to get in on the offense as well and scored seven of his 15 points in the frame.

The lead got to 69-63 with 30 seconds left in the quarter and West Ranch survived the late charge, as Kaluna dropped in two free throws with two seconds to play.

He also had 16 rebounds in the game.

“We didn’t give them the easy ones early. We gave them a lot of easy ones late,” said Crespi head coach Russell White.

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