West Ranch boys basketball crashes the boards to beat Saugus

Saugus’ Matthew Correa, #3, looses the ball under full-court pressure from West Ranch’s Darrell Morris, #3, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s Tracy Bryden, #21, pulls a rebound from Saugus defenders Matthew Correa, #3, left, and Max Guardado, #45, right, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s Darrell Morris, #3, steals the ball from Saugus’ Matthew Correa, #3, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Matthew Correa, #3, looks for a pass double-teamed by West Ranch’s Carsen Yahata, #0, and Bishop Brooks, #1, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Justin Perez, #0, tries to get a rebound from West Ranch’s Darrell Morris, #3, and Bishop Brooks, #1, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Max Guardado, #45, pulls a rebound from West Ranch’s Tracy Bryden, #21, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Peter Burton, #5, looses the ball under pressure from West Ranch’s Bishop Brooks, #1, during first period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s James Evans, #5, goes up for two points as Saugus Max Guardado,#45, defends on the play during third period action in a Foothill League game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Bryce Mejia, #1, gets pushed to the floor during a full-court press by West Ranch’s Jaeden Robley, #12, as West Ranch’s Darrell Morris, #3, assists on the play during second period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s James Evans, #5, knocks the ball from Saugus Peter Burton, #5, during second period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Justin Perez, #0, is fouled by West Ranch’s Bishop Brooks, #1, as West Ranch’s Tracy Bryden, #21, assists on the play during second period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Justin Perez, #0, pulls a rebound from West Ranch’s Jaeden Robley, #12 during third period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s Tracy Bryden, #21, shoots for two points as Saugus Max Guardado, #45, defends on the play during third period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s BJ Evans, #2, shoots for two points as Saugus Max Guardado, #45, defends on the play during third period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus’ Peter Burton, #5, looks for a pass as he is double-teamed by West Ranch’s Bishop Brooks, #1, and James Evans, #5, during third period action in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch coach J. Bryant III against Saugus in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo sits on the bench with the team against Saugus in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

West Ranch’s Prince Okonkwo passes out rebounds during warm-ups before the game against Saugus in a Foothill league game at Saugus High on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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SAUGUS — West Ranch boys basketball took Saugus by storm on Friday night, beating the Centurions 96-70 as the Foothill League schedule begins to wind down.

“We wanted to come out here and set the tone and let it be known that if you guys want us to be the villains, we’ll be the villains,” West Ranch coach Jeff Bryant said.

James Evans scored a game-high 24 points for the Wildcats, followed by Darrell Morris with 16 points, Jaeden Robley with 15 points and Tracy Bryden with 14 points.

Saugus’ Matthew Correa scored 16 points and Justin Perez added 13 points.

West Ranch (16-7 overall, 9-0 in Foothill League) went on a 12-0 run to open the game. Saugus (17-7, 8-1) was able to get to the free throw line for four points to stop the run, but the Wildcats defense allowed only 13 points in the first quarter to their own 26 points.

“I hammered them to crash the glass,” Bryant said.

James Evans hit a 3-pointer with 4:14 remaining in the frame, then grabbed a steal and took the ball in for a dunk roughly 15 seconds later. Evans was valuable on the boards as well as West Ranch won many rebounding battles in the first half.

“Just go out there and jump as high as I can and get the rebound,” Evans said. “I’m the best player on the floor, so I gotta act like it and just get every rebound any chance I can get.”

A 3-pointer from Saugus’ Matthew Correa closed out the scoring in the first quarter and he hit another 3-point shot two minutes into the second quarter. Justin Perez’s scoring efforts turned the ignition, but the Centurions weren’t able to fully get started and went into halftime trailing 46-26.

Saugus coach Alfredo Manzano said that the coaching staff and team were keeping score on the bench in two-minute increments to keep track of the small battles won.

“It’s one game,” Manzano said. “Although it meant a lot for us, it’s not going to define us. So my job is to keep them motivated and next game, come back even stronger.”

West Ranch sustained its defensive energy in the second half enough to outscore Saugus 29-27 in the third quarter.

The Wildcats also had a boost from two transfers who are now eligible, Tracy Bryden and BJ Evans. They did not play against Saugus in their first league contest on Dec. 5.

“I feel like we are all starting to click now,” Evans said. “I feel like it’ll all come together by the time playoffs come. We’re gonna be a very good team and hard to beat, for sure.”

Bryden blocked a shot to deny Saugus from scoring midway through the final quarter, then went in for a dunk the next time West Ranch had the ball. Darrell Morris sank a 3-pointer and made the and-one afterwards to get the Wildcats past the 90-point mark.

West Ranch’s record is currently being challenged by the CIF Southern Section due to an eligibility issue. The CIF-SS told the Daily News in an email on Friday morning that West Ranch has forfeited one game due to using an ineligible player.

Bryant said he’s trying to keep his players focused on the game and not the forfeit.

“Championship teams don’t worry about any distractions,” Bryant said.

The Wildcats’ next Foothill League matchup is Tuesday at Valencia and Saugus is at Hart on the same day.

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