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Prep boys basketball: West Ranch wins Foothill crown outright

West Ranch alone atop league after Hart loses across town

Posted: February 8, 2013 10:21 p.m.
Updated: February 8, 2013 10:21 p.m.

West Ranch High's Kevin Harris (21) draws a foul from Valencia's Jaleel Howard (12) as he goes to the basket in the second half at West Ranch School on Friday.

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One by one, as West Ranch Wildcats seniors exited the game late in the fourth quarter at West Ranch High, they kissed the school logo at center court.

And after the game, they, along with one of the biggest student sections to come to a Santa Clarita Valley boys basketball game this year, danced on the same logo.

West Ranch defeated the Valencia Vikings 73-51 on Friday to earn their second straight Foothill League championship.

Coupled with Hart’s shocking loss to Canyon, this marks the first outright boys basketball league championship for the Wildcats (19-6 overall, 9-1 Foothill League), as they shared the title with Canyon last season.

“I’ve been dreaming about this since my freshman year,” said West Ranch center Ako Kaluna, who led all scorers with 16 points in the game. “To win the first championship (outright) is unbelievable.”

Added his teammate and fellow league player of the year candidate Kevin Harris, who added 14 points: “It’s everything we worked for. ... All the work paid off.”

The thing that West Ranch and Hart both had to do Friday was close.

On paper, both teams were favorites to win Friday, yet both teams still had tough matchups.

The Vikings played the Wildcats tough in a Jan. 22 West Ranch 70-63 win.

West Ranch wanted none of that Friday and put it to the Vikings (16-8, 5-5) early.

The Wildcats hit five 3-pointers, including two by Cody Sanders, and led by as much as 19 points in the first quarter.

By halftime, the Wildcats were cruising with a 41-20 lead.

“We tried, but it didn’t work,” said Valencia head coach Rocket Collins on adjusting to West Ranch’s fast pace. “They put the pressure on us and we couldn’t handle the pressure.”

West Ranch head coach Shant Bicakci said he learned from the last time the two teams met, and knew his team had to come into this game differently, even with the pressure of a league championship on the line.

“I told our kids we have to have tunnel vision,” Bicakci said. “Forget everything else. We’ve got to play our best game of the year.”

It was close to that, as the Wildcats got contributions from all over the place, with Ryan Beddeo scoring 13 points and Sanders and Kyle Williams adding eight.

The only point of the second half where the lead was under 20 points was two minutes into the third quarter, when Valencia’s Jaleel Howard cut the advantage to 45-26 on a layup.

West Ranch then went on a 9-0 run.

Valencia’s Angel Cardenas scored 16 points off the bench and Riley Honaker scored 12, but there was little offense outside of those two.

The Vikings jumped out of the gate at 3-0 in the Foothill League and finished 2-5.

Now Valencia has to navigate the minefield that is the CIF-Southern Section Division IA playoffs, which begin next week.

As does West Ranch.

The Wildcats made the quarterfinals last year.


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