Cougars Beat Bullard and Capture First Win

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It took seven games, but the Weston Ranch boys basketball team finally got its first win. Last night, the Cougars beat Bullard High School, 75-61, in Modesto to advance to the championship side of the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic.

The Cougars looked ready to put the frustrating losses behind them as they turned a four-point halftime lead into a 17-point 3rd quarter lead en route to their first win. Propelled by Elijah Mobley’s game-high 27 points, Weston Ranch was able to wear down the Knights and ended their six-game losing streak.

“We definitely played with great energy today,” head coach Nicholas Podesta stated. “We didn’t defeat ourselves for the first time this season, so I was very happy to see that part of our game improve.”

And improve they did.

Offensively, Weston Ranch shot 71% from the floor (up from the team average of 46%) and 67% from the free throw line (up from the team average of 57%). And while they still struggle with their 3-point shooting (5-19 in the Bullard game), the Cougars could still turn those misses into positives when they chased Bullard the other way down the court.

As Cougar basketball fans have seen, their defense leads to better shooting, particularly fast-break and transition baskets. Weston Ranch’s pressure enabled them to grab 17 defensive rebounds. However, when they weren’t rebounding, they collected 16 steals, thus creating 33 extra possessions, turning them into points on their half of the court. And the Knights found out that giving the Cougars additional looks at the basket proved too much for them to defend.

“Bullard shoots the ball very well, and we knew they could get hot, especially from the 3-point line,” Podesta stated. “I was very proud of how we rebounded and defended today.”

And as the pressure defense increased, it eventually wore down Bullard. The Cougars used a 20-9 3rd quarter to build a 61-44 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. Weston Ranch built the 17-point lead into a 23-point lead halfway through the 4th quarter and put the game away.

“That was one of those big runs we were known for last year,” Podesta stated. “So far, those big halves have eluded us, but when we got it, we knew we had a great chance to put the game away.”

Weston Ranch got balanced team scoring as nine of the 10 Cougars who touched the floor scored at least one point. But Mobley and Richard Banks put their team on their shoulders in the second half. In addition to Elijah Mobley’s 27 points, Banks scored 12 second-half points and finished with 14. Banks knocked down two 3-pointers in the second half, both of which thwarted Bullard’s attempts to get back into the game. Mobley and Banks combined for 23 of Weston Ranch’s 34 second-half points.

The Cougars face Vanden High School of Fairfield tonight at Modesto Christian’s Anderson Gymnasium. The Vikings (8-4) enter tonight’s game with the Cougars (1-6) after defeating Pleasant Valley 63-59. Vanden was 21-13 last year and are defending Monticello Empire League champions. It will be another top-level program and another test for the Cougars as they close out the brutal non-league schedule where they have played top-level National and local high school basketball powers.

“Tonight, will be a big challenge for us,” Podesta stated. “While we were happy to win yesterday, we know we still have work to do, and we are taking steps to improve every game.”

Tip-off for tonight’s game vs. the Vikings at Modesto Christian gets going at 4 pm. A win gets them a date with the Northgate/Clovis West winner on December 29 at 7:30, while a loss will see them play the loser of Northgate/Clovis West at 3 pm.