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Cougars knock off No. 2-ranked Central Section team

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POSTED December 28, 2012 1:19 a.m.

First-year Weston Ranch head coach Chris Teevan was hoping his Cougars could keep up with Central of Fresno, the No. 2 ranked team out of the Central Section according to

But it was Central doing the chasing in this intriguing winners-bracket matchup in the 13th Annual Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic, as Weston Ranch held off a second-half rally to prevail 71-61 on Thursday. The Cougars (6-3) take on El Camino Real of Woodland Hills tonight at 8:30 in the semifinals.

Eric Duncan fired 26 points to lead the way, and Dylan Alexander pumped in 23. Daiveon Leverett added 16 but was key on the defensive end.

“Central is a pretty darn good team,” Teevan said. “They’re athletic, they’re strong and they’re big. I was hoping we could keep it close, but I knew we could play with them.”

Central has two stout post players in 6-foot-6 Nate Amundsen and 6-6 Darius Hamilton. Off guard Murshid Randle is being courted by several NCAA Division-I programs, and point guard LJ Moore is touted as one of the state’s top defensive backs in football.

The Cougars made a statement early, holding the Grizzlies (8-2) to just 11 points in the second quarter for a 38-26 halftime lead. Central outscored them 24-13 in the third quarter to make it a game.

Sean Visperas helped Weston Ranch run away with the lead, and Leverett did his part to keep it. Visperas beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to stretch the Cougars’ lead to four, and on their next possession Alexander hit from long range to extend the advantage to seven.

The rest was left up to Leverett.

“In the second and fourth quarters we did it with defense,” Teeven said. “Daiveon won the game for us. In the last four minutes he had four blocks. When he plays defense and rebounds like that we’re hard to beat.”

Weston Ranch is no stranger to facing top competition at this point, but it gets another stiff test in El Camino (10-2) tonight. The Conquistadors are the defending Division II champions of the Los Angeles City Section and are led by 6-7 Hawaii-bound wing forward Michael Thomas.

Chavez 67, Ripon 46

The Indians (2-8) struggled from the field, with turnovers and the superior athleticism of Chavez (7-6) in their consolation-bracket contest.

Cole Herrin led Ripon with 13 points. Chavez had three players in double figures: Eddie Nelson with 12 points, Francis Calvin with 11 and Marcell Wilson with 10.

Ripon faces Turlock at 11:30 this morning.

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