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Prep basketball: Kaluna vs. Backboard

West Ranch senior makes a statement with his destruction — he and West Ranch have a

Posted: December 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.

It was a moment that should live in Santa Clarita Valley prep basketball history forever.

On Thursday night at Santa Monica High School, West Ranch guard Kevin Harris drove along the right side of the basket and tried for a layup and was fouled with 3:10 to play in the first quarter against Alemany of Mission Hills.

Giant teammate Ako Kaluna came in to clean up the rebound as a referee’s whistle sounded and the Wildcats power forward/center threw down a two-handed dunk. The 6-foot-7-inch, 270-pound force of nature pulled down the rim and the glass on the backboard shattered. It left shards of glass on the floor, in Kaluna’s long hair and in his massive arms.

“It’s going to take a long time to get the glass out of my hair,” Kaluna said his first thought was.

The dunk also left a gymnasium mesmerized.

Mostly everybody.

“To tell you the truth, a lot of people were surprised, but our team, the kids on the team, the coaches, none of us were surprised,” said West Ranch second-year head coach Shant Bicakci. “He’d already broken two rims at West Ranch. The force he throws that ball down with and how strong and agile he is, it was a matter of time.”

It was a matter of time before it went viral. The Twitterverse was on it. It was shown on a TV newscast. It was on Instagram. And it hit Youtube.

Over at the Canyon Classic Tournament, some 36 miles away at Canyon High, former Cowboys head coach and current co-Athletic Director Chad Phillips was showing pictures of it on his phone.

The play was remarkable — a warning to those who didn’t know (all of the Santa Clarita Valley already does) that Ako Kaluna is the most impressive force in this area now and maybe ever.

A wild-haired Hawaiian who can shoot from the outside, drive to the basket at will, dominate in the post, rebound and play defense.

In the bigger picture for the Wildcats, the play and the game were warnings to all teams who cross the Wildcats — they have arrived as a force in the Southern Section.

West Ranch defeated Alemany in the second round of Santa Monica High’s “The Tournament” 69-61 with Kaluna scoring 23 points and pulling down 25 rebounds.

Alemany is the defending CIF Division III state champion, and though it lost some key seniors from last season’s team, is still loaded with a slew of NCAA Division I college talent.

“We wanted to make a name for ourselves. That was a signature win,” Bicakci said. “In the scheme of things, a win is a win, but in the sense that who it came against and the stage it was set on — we were the primetime game, it was a packed gym. It’s not as impressive as a postseason win, but it’s a big-time win for program.”

It also says a lot about the Wildcats that they were able to get re-started after the Kaluna dunk.

Officials looked at themselves immediately afterward not knowing what to do.

One option was removing another backboard in the gym and replacing the broken one.

Instead, the decision was made to play the game in an auxiliary gym and it was restarted a little more than an hour after Kaluna’s destruction.

West Ranch had an early lead before the dunk and Bicakci said at the rate the game was going, the Wildcats were a knockout punch away from really taking over the game.

But the Wildcats trailed going into halftime and both teams went into their respective locker rooms, which happened to be separated by a wall.

Bicakci said his team could hear Alemany roaring in its locker room — pumped up from the fact that they stole the thunder away from the dunk.

But West Ranch pulled back in the third quarter, then ultimately took the game over in the fourth.

“We’re a force to be reckoned with,” Kaluna said the game showed. “We’re not just some other team that people look at and look over. They look at us and plan for us now.”

West Ranch shared the Foothill League title last season and made it all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Division IA quarterfinals.

The Wildcats have started the season at 4-0 with a big reason being the play of Kaluna — a rarity.

Bicakci said college coaches rave about the fact that he runs the floor with such agility and with such great hand-eye coordination with his size.

The SCV has not seen a force of his likes ever.

As for what’s next for Kaluna, a recent Northern Arizona University commit.

“I can’t answer that one yet,” he said.

Here’s a tip though — you don’t want to miss what that answer is.



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