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New-look Wildcats struggle in opener

West Ranch boys basketball builds early lead, but can’t hang on

Posted: December 8, 2009 10:20 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2009 4:30 a.m.

The West Ranch boys basketball team got the start it wanted but not the finish it needed in an 80-69 loss to Highland High on Tuesday at Canyon High in the 10th annual Canyon Classic.

After losing 11 players to graduation, the Wildcats brought in 10 new faces, but it didn’t matter in the first quarter.

Wildcats wingman Martin Flowers led a solid team effort with nine points and three steals in the first quarter, as West Ranch used a full-court press early and built a 24-14 lead.

But in the second quarter, Highland broke the press and the Wildcats’ offense went cold.

“We just broke down defensively, Guys weren’t where they needed to be and guys weren’t closing out,” Flowers said.

Highland was ready to capitalize.

West Ranch managed to keep the Bulldogs out of the paint for most of the first half with solid defense, but once Highland was forced outside, it started to hit threes.

Bulldogs guard Cody Rodino hit one from beyond the arc, and Milan Harrell added a pair of threes as well, as Highland used a 16-4 run in the middle of the second quarter to take a 41-38 lead at the half.

With Flowers on the bench in foul trouble, the Wildcats had no answer on offense.

West Ranch finished 8-of-24 from the 3-point line and couldn’t seem to hit the big shot every time it tried to start a comeback.

“I thought we did a nice job and got on them early,” said West Ranch head coach Sean LeGaux. “They did a good job of adjusting to what we were trying to do. They’re a physical team, and I think that wore on us a little bit, and we went really cold.”

Flowers went off to start the third, scoring 11 points and adding two more steals, but it wasn’t enough.

Using an outside-in approach, Highland (1-0) was able to establish its offense in the key, and Rodino countered Flowers’ efforts with 21 second-half points, most coming off of drives to the basket or free throws.

West Ranch stayed with the Bulldogs, trailing 58-52 two minutes into the fourth before another three by Harrell seemed to stifle the Wildcats’ momentum.

“We’re a small team but we’re a tough team,” said Flowers, who finished with 28 points, six rebounds and five steals. “Every time we go out we’re going to have to battle and we’re not going down without a fight.”

The undersized Wildcats (0-1) resorted to fouling in the final minutes, but Rodino hit four straight free throws to seal the win.

West Ranch plays Paraclete on Thursday at 3 p.m at the Canyon Classic.



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