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The Day After Hoops: Up to the hype

League opener featured a top-notch matchup

Posted: January 10, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 10, 2013 1:55 a.m.
West Ranch’s Ben Johnson (2) shoots against Hart defender Andrew MacArthur (4) at Hart High on Tuesday. West Ranch’s Ben Johnson (2) shoots against Hart defender Andrew MacArthur (4) at Hart High on Tuesday.
West Ranch’s Ben Johnson (2) shoots against Hart defender Andrew MacArthur (4) at Hart High on Tuesday.

There was a heavy atmosphere game on Tuesday night at Hart High school.

While schools are still on winter break, the crowd filtered in slowly, but by the time the West Ranch-Hart game at Hart High started, there weren’t enough seats for all the people.

And a game between the two Foothill League title favorites, two top ranked teams in the CIF-Southern Section, didn’t disappoint.

At least it didn’t disappoint West Ranch in a 70-63 victory.

“It’s just one game. Beating Hart counts as one win, not five. But there was a lot of anticipation for this game,” said West Ranch head coach Shant Bicakci. “There was a lot going into it. That’s just huge.”

Lost in the performances by West Ranch stars Ako Kaluna and Kevin Harris was the play of the Wildcats’ supporting cast in Tuesday’s 70-63 win over Hart at Hart High.

Sure, it was Kaluna and Harris’ combined 42 points and patience.

But two players in particular gave reason to believe that West Ranch has other options.

Senior guard Cody Sanders hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter and senior power forward Kyle Williams scored nine points, played strong defense and he burned Hart on the inside and outside with timely buckets.  

On Hart’s side, the Indians, despite trailing the whole game, weren’t overwhelmed.

They had an off-shooting night, but one major bright spot — though there were a couple — was the play of sophomore guard Myles Franklin.

Things seemed to happen when the ball was in his hands, and the young player was unfazed by the big-game atmosphere.

He was 5-for-13 from the field, but started slow in a 15-point performance.

Another bright spot was the play of senior forward Stanley Wilder, who was active and in Kaluna’s face for much of the game, while staying out of foul trouble.

Meanwhile, Valencia continues to be the surprise team of the early basketball season.

And head coach Rocket Collins keeps going back to the same reason.

“They share the ball pretty well. This team, everybody always talks about good chemistry. They have good chemistry,” Collins said.

Before Saugus knew what hit it, the Vikings were up 32-18 at halftime.

Valencia won the game 55-50.

The Vikings are now 12-2 and get Golden Valley on Friday.

Before league play began, Saugus head coach Derek Ballard said his team would have to score points to win games — meaning it would have to score more than the 50 points it scored in the loss to Valencia.

“We didn’t play great defensively and we didn’t play good offensively. We didn’t play well at all,” he said.

Now Saugus is in a tough position. It gets Hart on Friday and West Ranch next Tuesday.

Two more losses could take the Cents out of the league title picture early.

One win could really change things in the Foothill League.

The Vikings don’t get a free pass, though, as they host Golden Valley — a team that surprised Canyon and gave the Cowboys a run on Tuesday in a 79-72 loss.

Canyon hosts West Ranch on Friday.

Girls Basketball

You’ve got to hand it to Golden Valley — it gave Foothill League title favorite Canyon a run for its money in the league opener before eventually losing 50-39.

The Grizzlies led 21-18 at halftime before a 23-7 Canyon third quarter turned the game around.

“We came out a little flat,” said Canyon head coach Chuck Johns. “They’re an athletic team, hungry to make a mark in the Foothill League with a new coach. They have a lot of good athletic kids. Fast forwards, girls who can jump. They have size and they’re a team who will get better and better.”

Mariah Madison scored 13 points for the Grizzlies and Caitlyn Zindroski added eight.

Canyon’s Alia McCoy was too much, though, with her 20 points.

The Cowboys get West Ranch, which beat Hart 53-27, on Friday.

In Wednesday’s paper, we focused on the defensive play of Hannah Green, who had eight blocks. But the offense was keyed by Whitney Branham, who was feeling it from deep on Tuesday.

She hit four 3-pointers in the game en route to 18 points.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats outscored the Indians 19-4.

Hart struggled to find offense without sophomore Breze Kimble, who was out with a mild concussion.

Hart plays at Saugus on Friday and Indians head coach Terra Palmer wasn’t certain if Kimble would play in that game.

Saugus was floored by Valencia on Tuesday in a 63-35 loss.

Sandra Ikeora, who came alive in Foothill League play last year, scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for the Vikings.

Valencia hosts Golden Valley Friday.


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