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’Cats girls basketball nearly let game get away

Canyon cuts West Ranch’s fourth-quarter lead to one, but WR wins

Posted: January 30, 2009 10:16 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.
With the game seemingly in control, the West Ranch girls basketball team relaxed its suffocating defense for the last two minutes of the Friday night's game.

That's when Canyon cut a 10-point deficit with 2:01 to go down to a one-point deficit with seven seconds left and the Cowboys having possession of the ball.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they were able to turn on the defense once more and force one more turnover en-route to a 44-39 victory.

"I think the team did what I did. I relaxed so they relaxed and before you know it Canyon was right back at us," said West Ranch head coach Randy Smith.

West Ranch (12-9, 4-1) drained four free throws to close out the game to take the five-point win and pull into a tie with Saugus for first place in the Foothill League.

The Wildcats took an early lead and never trailed for the entire 32 minutes of the game.

One of the keys for West Ranch was holding the Cowboys' leading scorer and emotional leader Brooke Lemar in check all night, which in turn slowed down the transition game of Canyon (3-19, 2-4).

The shut-down job fell to West Ranch's Alex Ritz.

Lemar finished with six points.

"She played crazy defense," said Wildcat Erin Ruiz said of Ritz's defense. "She smothers you and doesn't let you get away and she was amazing doing that tonight."

Ruiz finished with a game-high 16 points.

The Wildcats methodically worked the ball inside and out to build up a 23-17 halftime lead.

They forced nine first-half Cowboys turnovers.

In the second half, it was more of the same as neither team could get easy points on the fast break.

Finally, West Ranch broke out in the fourth quarter for some easy transition buckets as it built a 10-point lead before Canyon nearly pulled off the stunning comeback.

"I'm proud of the girls for battling back," said Canyon head coach Todd Jackson. "They put themselves in position to win, but we had too many unforced errors."

For West Ranch, the victory means a chance to play for first place on Tuesday just one season removed from a 1-9 Foothill League record.

"It's big," Smith said of the win. "We wanted to win this game so Tuesday we have a chance to play for first place. That is a unique chance after last season, so we're very excited."


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