Village Christian boys basketball holds on for win over West Ranch

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo battles for a rebound with Keller Wilson of Village Christian during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Village Christian’s Jaden Karuletwa makes a move around Bishop Brooks of West Ranch during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo tries to get to the hoop against Village Christian during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

James Evans of West Ranch shoots the ball against Village Christian during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo puts up a shot over Keller Wilson of Village Christian during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

West Ranch’s Bishop Brooks passes the ball while guarded by Andy Porcayo and Keller Wilson of Village Christian during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo tries to grab a rebound as they host Village Christian during a non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo puts up a shot over Sydney Natche of Village Christian during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Village Christian’s Sydney Natche gets by James Evans of West Ranch during their non-league basketball game Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Village Christian boys basketball coach Julian Andrade against West Ranch Dec. 15, 2023.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

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SANTA CLARITA — It came down to the final .27 seconds.

The Village Christian boys basketball team held a two-point advantage and West Ranch had the ball.

The Wildcats knew that a tip-in was their only option, and head coach Jeff Bryant drew up a play to have one of his players get in the paint and look for a lob.

Instead the pass from underneath the basket went to Ryder Sundquist, who made a baseline jumper, but the basket was waived off and Village Christian hung on to win 58-56 Friday night.

Basket is no good. Not enough time on the clock to catch and shoot

Village Christian defeats West Ranch 58-56 pic.twitter.com/FaOJs4Bvfc

— Dan Lovi (@LoviSports) December 16, 2023

“In the huddle we said all we can get is a tip because of the time. They already told us it wasn’t enough time to get a shot off,” Bryant said. “It was kind of a misdirection, our guy from the elbow was supposed to slide down and we were going to throw a lob. Darrell (Morris) threw it to Ryder, who thought he got the shot off but he didn’t because all we could get is a tip. Just bad execution.”

For the Crusaders, the win was a much-needed sigh of relief.

Village Christian has already been involved in several close games this season, including three overtimes and have lost three games by one point.

“We’ve had three overtimes, one point wins. It’s really preparing us for the future,” Village Christian head coach Julian Andrade said. “You can’t prepare and plan it out better than this, so I’m really proud of the guys. We stuck with it and kept competing.”

The Crusaders came out with a sense of urgency from the start and the Wildcats couldn’t match it in the first half.

Already down a couple of key players, it didn’t help West Ranch’s cause that school was already out for the holidays and the gym wasn’t packed as usual.

“We usually have our crowd. We have our cheerleaders and our student section and I put it on the scouting report, we have to find our own energy because the energy is not going to be in the gym like we’re used to,” Bryant said. “They got the 50-50 basketballs, they got the loose balls and we didn’t get those balls. No sense of urgency.”

Village Christian was led by junior Sydney Natche, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds.

The Crusaders got crucial contributions from every player that hit the court.

Senior captain Keller Wilson logged 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. The other captain, senior Jaden Karuletwa, scored 13 points and had seven rebounds and three assists.

Freshman point guard Deion Lewis stood out as the only underclassman from either team who made a significant impact. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds and was under control in high-pressure situations.

“That’s a freshman with a lot of poise. You can tell by his demeanor, you don’t know if he’s winning or losing,” Andrade said about Lewis. “He just competes. He’s very special and we’re going to have our point guard for the next four years.”

James Evans led the way for West Ranch with 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Bishop Brooks added 10 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Wildcats. Morris finished with nine points, four rebounds and three assists.

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