GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lady Cougars Lock Down Two SJAA Foes and Look Toward Title


Weston Ranch girls basketball took two giant steps to secure its first championship this week. Needing to win its final six SJAA games to get into title contention, the Lady Cougars beat first-place Stagg 64-37 on Monday and then beat third-place McNair 74-71 last night in an overtime thriller at McNair. The victory over the Delta Queens evened the Lady Cougars in the loss column at one, and the win last night over the Eagles tied Stagg in the win column. Now, with four games to go, Weston Ranch needs to win out to earn a tie for the top spot and hope Stagg stumbles in its final three games to claim the title outright.

“Playing Stagg and McNair in the same week was tough,” said Janay Holmes. “I believe we knew we could beat both teams, but we knew it would take a great team effort. The big difference between our start (the season) and the way we’re playing now is our belief that we can win.”

Monday’s game against Stagg began ominously for Weston Ranch. The Lady Cougars, who lost to the Delta Queens 42-40 back on Jan. 10, were down 9-0 with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter. However, Janaysha Green scored the first basket for Weston Ranch and sparked an 8-1 run for Weston Ranch to get the Stagg lead to 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.

Weston Ranch, who struggled with Stagg’s full-court pressure in the game’s opening moments, settled down in the second quarter and built a 23-17 lead. Anisa Hekimian came off the bench to score seven points for the Lady Cougars to go along with Green’s five points, and Weston Ranch trotted off the court with a 23-17 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, the Lady Cougars continued to score and build upon their six-point lead. Aided by a 21-point effort, Weston Ranch closed out the third leading 44-30.

The fourth quarter began with the Lady Cougars applying defensive pressure and shutting down Stagg’s offense. And it was another high-scoring output for Weston Ranch as they went for 20 fourth-quarter points en route to the 64-37 win.

“That was a big game for us,” said Kimani Wilburn. “We were excited to see the fans in the stands, and we were ready for that game. We had a lot of confidence when we walked onto the floor.”

Green led the Lady Cougars with 18 points; Hekimian added 14; Holmes finished with 10.

In last night’s game at McNair, Weston Ranch had to battle back from multiple deficits. The Lady Cougars were down 15-14 at the end of the first quarter and 38-32 at halftime. Weston Ranch cut the six-point McNair halftime lead and trailed into the third quarter 50-48 and needed another strong effort in the fourth quarter to keep their title hopes alive. In their most significant 10 minutes of the season, they got their most enormous effort from Holmes.

Holmes led a 20-point fourth Weston Ranch attack by scoring 13 points. Nine of Holmes’ points came at the free throw line, where she went a perfect 9-9. Holmes and Hekimian (six points in the fourth) helped the Lady Cougars tie the Eagles at 68-68 and sent the game into overtime.

“Before the fourth quarter, we kept encouraging each other,” Holmes said. “We just kept asking each other who wanted it more. I kept driving to the basket in the fourth and going to the line. I practice my free throws a lot, and it paid off for our team.”

In the overtime period, Weston Ranch scored six points and held McNair to three, and that was the ball game.

Holmes led the Weston Ranch with 23 points; Wilburn added 16; Hekimian finished with 12.

It’s been a remarkable comeback for a Weston Ranch team that, at the beginning of the year, was 1-5 and on the brink of another disappointing finish in the program’s history. However, the Lady Cougars flipped a switch and rattled off five straight wins. After the Jan. 10 loss to Stagg and a Jan. 16 loss to Mt. Eden High School, Weston Ranch has put together a six-game win streak and now finds themselves in a great position to finish the comeback with an SJAA title.

“Our thoughts for the final four games are positive,” Wilburn said. “If we keep bringing our good attitude, we can do well and win. At the beginning of the year, we weren’t in sync, but we worked hard and developed confidence. We’re a good team in the second half of our games, so we need to keep playing our game, and we know things will work out in our favor.”

Weston Ranch is now 9-1 in the SJAA and plays Chavez High School on Feb. 1 at Weston Ranch. The tip-off is scheduled for 6:30.