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Prep girls hoops: ’Cats battle it out

Whitney Branham’s big game helps W.R. pull away in win

Posted: January 19, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 19, 2013 1:55 a.m.

Golden Valley girls basketball was determined to pick up its first Foothill League win on Friday night at West Ranch High School, and if it hadn’t been for a spectacular outing by Wildcats junior guard Whitney Branham, it might have gotten it.

Branham scored 29 points and had eight rebounds in her team’s 60-47 win, bringing her team back to .500 in league play and pushing the struggling Grizzlies aside in the process.

“When I saw how hard they were playing and how much of a struggle the game was at that point, I knew I had to turn it up,” Branham said. “They were running the right plays and doing a lot of good things out there, but one of our strengths is our heart and that came out today.”

While West Ranch closed the game strong, Golden Valley brought all the intensity during the early stages of the game, especially on the offensive end, where every Grizzly player who set foot on the court on Friday scored. When one of Golden Valley’s speedy guards reached the paint, the West Ranch defense would collapse, affording quality looks to the Grizzlies waiting in the open zones.

While the first half was all about team offense for Golden Valley (6-11 overall, 0-4 Foothill League), Branham put on an impressive solo act, scoring 17 points in the first two quarters to keep the Wildcats (10-8, 2-2) in the game.

After entering the third quarter down 31-30, the Wildcats took control of the game by continuing to feed Branham’s hot hand and showing patience with Hannah Green, who missed on all 10 of her shot attempts in the first half. Green scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half, which West Ranch owned, outscoring its opponent 30-16.

While Golden Valley was up to the moment in the first half, the Grizzlies looked rattled once the Wildcats raised their level of play.

The Grizzlies’ once quality looks were now contested, and the distributors who had done such a good job finding the open man reverted to shoot-first basketball.

“We wanted this win so bad that we got caught up in things and stopped playing as a team and got selfish,” said Grizzlies junior guard Mariah Madison, who finished with six points. “It definitely became a high anxiety type of situation.”

After Branham and teammate Kiana Calderon iced the game with a pair of threes to push the lead to double digits, West Ranch cruised to victory in the final minutes.

West Ranch looks to move above .500 in league play next week at Valencia, while the Grizzlies should look to build upon their positives heading into Tuesday’s home affair versus Saugus.

“Our problem has been inconsistency, so we will look to get that settled” said West Ranch head coach Randy Smith. “We are light years ahead of where we were at the beginning of the year and, to be fair, this Golden Valley team is also much improved.”


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