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Prep boys hoops: Good memory

Kaluna scores 35 points in ‘revenge’ win over Ventura

Posted: February 16, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 16, 2013 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch's Ako Kaluna rises to shoot over Ventura defenders on Friday night at West Ranch High.

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Two years ago, West Ranch boys basketball was eliminated from the postseason by eventual CIF division champion Ventura.

The loss didn’t sit well with Wildcats senior Ako Kaluna.

Kaluna scored 35 points to turn a three-quarter nail-biter into a 77-59 victory over the Cougars on Friday night in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IA playoffs at West Ranch High School.

“It was revenge,” said the Northern Arizona University-bound forward. “Two years ago, they got me. I wasn’t going to lose this year.”

Kaluna outscored Ventura 24-17 in the second half as the Wildcats (20-6) closed the lanes and held the Cougars (8-19) to only five points in the fourth quarter.

On paper, the game looked like a mismatch as Ventura entered the game 10 games under .500.

However, the Cougars played fearless basketball to keep the game close through the first three frames.

“On Friday, we were Foothill League champs, played such a good game, we’re the No. 3 seed, and we can beat anybody,” said Wildcats head coach Shant Bicakci of the team’s mentality entering the contest. “But you can get beat in the first round. ... To them, it’s a new season. They’re an 8-18 team, but they didn’t look like an 8-18 team.”

West Ranch senior Kevin Harris was relentless on both ends of the floor, scoring 20 points with six rebounds and five steals. Zac Nutall scored 10, including five quick points in the final minute of the first quarter to help the Wildcats to a 25-16 lead.

Ventura junior Trevor LaCount led his team with 20 points and five rebounds and drained a jumper in the waning seconds of the first half to cut West Ranch’s lead to 43-42.

The Cougars’ 3-point shooting kept them in the game, especially as Kaluna began to heat up.

Ventura finished 9-for-19 from beyond the arc, but it wasn’t enough to counter the senior’s inspired play. Kaluna finished 14-of-16 from the field with a 3-pointer, eight rebounds and six steals.

“We improved all year,” said Cougars head coach Dan Larson. “We’re a young team and we gave West Ranch a good game. They just wore us down.”

Ventura guard Alec Weichel added 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, all threes, while Ben Davis added 10 points.

But the Wildcats’ hustle and tightened defense in the low post helped West Ranch close the door in the fourth quarter.

“A couple hustle plays, stuff like that builds momentum,” Bicakci added. “When we play like that, that amount of intensity, we can beat anybody.”

West Ranch will attempt to carry that intensity into its second-round matchup at Huntington Beach on Tuesday. The Oilers beat El Rancho of Pico Rivera 53-46 on Friday night.

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