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Third quarter costs ’Cats

Mustangs beat West Ranch in second round of playoffs

Posted: February 22, 2009 2:19 a.m.
Updated: February 22, 2009 4:57 a.m.

West Ranch forward Brittani Walker (32) puts up a shot as Mira Costa's Whitney Daniels attempts to block Saturday at West Ranch High School.

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West Ranch girls basketball’s run in the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs came to an end Saturday night, falling 53-38 to Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach at West Ranch High in the second round.

The loss ends the Wildcats’ deepest playoff run school history.

“I think we took a step this season in league,”  said West Ranch head coach Randy Smith. “It sets us up well for next year.”

Smith was quick to note the fight of his team all season, which was evident in its resilience in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats (14-13) went on a 15-4 run in the final frame, cutting the Mustangs’ lead to 48-36.

West Ranch junior Erin Ruiz scored 10 points in the quarter and 16 in the game to lead the team.

“We got a little slugish,” said Mustangs head coach Don Braunecker of his team’s play in the fourth quarter. “Once we had the lead, we could afford to do that.”

Mira Costa (21-7) hit free throws down the strech to close the game out.

However, it was a lackluster third quarter that doomed the Wildcats.

West Ranch’s two free throws were the only points the team could manage.

The Mustangs shifted their zone formation throughout the period, keeping the Wildcats off balance and preventing them from getting any offense going.

The quarter ended with a 37-19 Mira Costa lead heading into the fourth.

Led by senior guard Amanda Johnson, the Mustangs cut through the West Ranch defense all night, scoring most of their points in the paint.

Johnson poured in 21 points, including two 3-pointers and an 11-of-12 mark from the free-throw line.

Coming off a knee injury, she drove on the Wildcats, drawing fouls and crashing to the floor.

What she couldn’t put away, 6-foot-2 center Whitney Daniels put back up.

Daniels racked up 11 points with nine rebounds.

After an evenly battled first quarter, the two Mustangs went to work, opening a 25-17 halftime lead.

West Ranch junior forward Brittani Walker scored four points but also pulled down nine rebounds while junior guard Kaylyn Tarver scored five points with seven boards.

A young team, the Wildcats say goodbye to five seniors, captain Alex Ritz, Alyssa Navarro, Christina Ortiz, Mikaela Manion, and Chantal Khalilieh.

pputignano@the-signal.com

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