Boys Basketball Braces for Battle with Central Catholic

Reigning+VOL+player+of+the+year+Gavin+Wilburn

Reigning VOL player of the year Gavin Wilburn

Weston Ranch basketball is on a roll. After Wednesday night’s leveling of VOL rival East Union, the Cougars find themselves staring directly at the team who put the only VOL loss on their impressive league record, the Raiders of Central Catholic. Wednesday’s win, an 80-48 waxing where five Cougars scored in double figures, helped the Cougars improve to 8-1 in the league and 15-10 overall. Considering where they started (4-9 before entering VOL play), the Cougars have come a long way.

Since exiting a brutal non-league schedule, the Cougars have reeled off 11 wins (eight in VOL and three outside of conference play), have watched their shooting and defense improve, and climbed back up the rankings ladder. As of today, the Cougars have crept back into the Top-20 for both the Sacramento and Sac-Joaquin Section (maxpreps.com). Unfortunately for the Cougars, since they played in the Open Division of last year’s California State Basketball tournament, they are placed into a different category for rankings. They are no longer considered Division III, the championship they won last year, and they will head off to the Division I tournament. But, this is the competition head coach Chris Teevan wanted for the Cougars, and the early defeats gave Weston Ranch a taste for a higher level of competition and an early indicator of what they can expect as the VOL winds down and they gear up for post-season.

“We had a lot to work out earlier in the year,” Teevan told The Prowl. “Playing tougher competition got us ready for a tight VOL and whatever we come up against in the playoffs.

However, the Cougars should not look past Central Catholic. The Raiders sit atop the VOL at 9-0, are 18-7 overall, and ranked number three in the Sac-Joaquin Division III rankings (maxpreps.com). They can score, defend, and rebound, as the Cougars found out back on January the 10th. Central defeated Weston Ranch that night 62-61 on a night where the Raiders came from behind to win and shocked the Cougars. Perhaps that was a wake-up call for Weston Ranch because, since the loss, the Cougars have improved on defense and long-range shooting. The pressure they’ve put on the rest of the VOL has created many lopsided wins and given the Cougars back their swagger. However, again, Central Catholic is not your ordinary VOL team. They bring tenacity, toughness, and a solid pedigree, three things the Cougars will have to find a way to deal with.

Teevan said, “We feel like a much different team than when we last played them. Everyone is performing well and having fun, and its an exciting time to be a Cougar. Obviously, we are going up against a team with championship blood with whom we have a great amount of respect. Our kids have performed in big moments throughout their careers, and I expect them to answer the call again.”

Senior Gavin Wilburn and junior Donjae Lindsey will lead the Cougars into Friday night’s tussle, along with hot-shooting junior, Mi’Son Coilton. Lindsey is leading the team in scoring with 15 points a game, and Wilburn is trailing behind at 11. Coilton has been impressive lately knocking down long 3s and is averaging 8 points a game. The emergence of senior big man Jordahn Johnson has given Weston Ranch the strong inside presence they sorely lacked at the beginning of the year. As Johnson has improved and made his presence felt in the paint, the Cougars have been released to play the up-tempo, strong pressure defense game they experimented with at the beginning of the year, but struggled with. Senior Titus Haley continues to be a steadying influence running the offense and gives the Cougars opportunities for great looks as he runs the point. It’s all falling into place, and the Cougars are entertaining to watch. And, add that 6’6″ freshman Kodey Weary returned from an arm injury, the Cougars now have a balanced rotation where Teevan can substitute with minimal drop-off. Junior Favor Pitts comes off the bench and gives Weston Ranch another outside shooter and also someone who can run the floor and defend. Junior Ke’Yon Forbes is another role player who can help the Cougars in multiple spots.

Accolades aside, Friday’s game with Central is a big deal for Weston Ranch. A win gives them a share of the VOL lead. A loss most certainly means they will not win the VOL, a massive disappointment for a team who has fought back so brilliantly. The newspaper press is fine, but you have to win on the court.

“We’re on a roll,” Teevan said after Wednesday’s win over EU. “It’s a great time to be us right now. It’s probably the best I have ever had a team play in general, and we won 30 games in a row last year.” (Manteca Bulletin)

Friday night should be a fierce battle. The Cougars will need to be ready. Previous wins don’t mean anything if they can’t get the one they need tonight. The stakes are high for both teams, so what a great way to spend Friday night.

Donjae Lindsey

(photo of Gavin Wilburn courtesy of Maxpreps.com)