BOYS BASKETBALL: Cougars Find a Way and Beat Central Catholic

The Weston Ranch Cougars squeaked past the Central Catholic Raiders 66-64 last night at Weston Ranch. The highly anticipated rematch saw the Cougars survive a physical game and hold off the Raiders in the game’s final seconds.

“I think Central Catholic game-planned well for us, and the fact we didn’t shoot well in the second half certainly kept things interesting late,” said head coach Nicholas Podesta.

The Cougars and Raiders traded baskets early, and the Cougars led 19-13 at the end of the first quarter. As the second quarter got underway, Weston Ranch went on a 12-0 run and pushed their lead to 18 points at 31-13. CC broke their drought with a basket with six minutes left, but it looked like the Cougars would cruise to another high-margin win. However, the Cougars went stone-cold during the final six minutes, managed only six points, watched the Radiers chip away at the deficit, and cut the lead to 37-27 at the half.

As the second half began, it was clear the Cougars were drained physically and emotionally. At times, the Cougars didn’t look like themselves, and perhaps last night was an indication the Cougars were wearing down after 25 games. Playing at a frantic pace and with lots of pressure every game has taken a toll, and they had to battle the entire second half to hold off the inspired Raiders.

“We played on a lot of emotion last night, which is understandable for a young team,” Podesta said. “It was a big game against Central Catholic, who has been a league rival for years, and the last time we’ll play them at our place in a league game. Playing on emotion is unsustainable in a 32-minute game, so we got a little sloppy, and they came back.”

Central Catholic chipped away at the Cougars lead and eventually grabbed the lead at 51-50 with 5:44 left to play. The Raiders led by three points for the next minute and a half and had Weston Ranch on the ropes. The Cougars got back in front with 3:40 left to play and led 56-55. From there, both teams slugged it out for the final minutes, and the Cougars led 66-64 with:14 left to play. Central Catholic had the ball coming in and moved up the court. However, they missed two shots, and the Cougars held on as the buzzer sounded.

Elijah Mobley led the Cougars with 20 points, and Khristian Holmes added 18. The Cougars needed every basket from Mobley and Holmes as the team struggled from the free-throw line going 13-21 and were stone cold from 3s going 4-25. Weston Ranch was 0-9 on 3 point attempts in the second half.

“Our guys played hard,” Podesta said. “That much was evident from the number of deflections we had last night. We just have to play cleaner, maintain our poise, and not play on so much emotion. We do that, and we should be in good shape. We’re a more efficient offense than we demonstrated last night.”

Emotions aside, the Cougars found another way to win and showed a tremendous amount of resilience. However, they will need to dig down deep again because they face VOL rival Manteca on February 3rd at Weston Ranch. The Buffaloes beat the Cougars 84-77 on January 22nd and will give the young Cougars another test.