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Cougars overcome sluggish start to beat Granada Hills
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Weston Ranch guard Zerrion Payton beats Louis Fernando of Granada Hills off the dribble in the fourth quarter of the Cougars 54-47 win Wednesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

SALIDA — Defensive adjustment.


Rousing halftime speech to fire up the troops.

Not so much.

Coach Ryan Bono kept it simple in the locker room during the break before his Weston Ranch boys basketball team came alive late to upend Granada Hills of Los Angeles 54-47 on Wednesday.

The Cougars (6-3), winners of six straight, appeared fatigued as they trudged through the first two quarters of their quarterfinal clash in the 12th Annual Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic.

Granada (6-7) was ahead the entire first half and led by as much as seven on four occasions. Weston Ranch was fortunate to trail 24-20 at the intermission thanks to a rarely-used 3-2 zone defense that stifled the Highlanders’ backcourt.

 “I was wondering what was wrong with our team,” Bono said. “At halftime I had a little talk with them (and said), ‘I don’t know where we’re at. We have the opportunity to get to the third round of a big tournament but we we’re just flat.

“We’re not having any fun. We need to go out there in the second half and just have fun.’ It’s really the only thing I said.”

The fun started with 5:30 left in the third quarter. Zerrion Payton forced a turnover and dove to the floor near midcourt to gain possession of the ball. Payton, still on his backside, spotted Dylan Alexander streaking down court and fed the 6-foot-4 standout in stride. Alexander flushed it down with a one-handed dunk, closing Weston Ranch in, 27-26.

The Cougars jumped ahead for the first time on their next possession, as Alexander rattled in a layup off a nifty drive from the baseline.

“We feed off of steals, getting out in transition and making layups,” said Payton, who led Weston Ranch with 16 points and four assists. “We’re athletic, so we have to play defense and just let everything else take care of itself.”

Alexander, who came in averaging 23.5 points per game, was slowed by foul trouble in the opening half. He scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half and added five rebounds and four assists.

Andre Beard had big moments and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Justin Lassiter sparked the Cougars off the bench, scoring all eight of his points in the fourth quarter while pulling down six boards.

They ran away with it early in the fourth, scoring 12 unanswered in a 4-minute, 39-second span for a 43-33 cushion. Weston Ranch outrebounded the Highlanders 12-4 in the final period and 38-25 overall.

“If our team is able to get stops — be it in zone or man (defense) — and get a rebound, we’ve got five guys who can run the floor,” Bono said. “If we can get five guys to the glass or play defense it will make our offense go.”

Sam Duzaryan scored 13 points, Travis Griffin added 12 and Jino Libao had 10 to go with six assists to pace the Highlanders. They face Central High of Fresno at 4 today, while Weston Ranch takes on Bakersfield at 7 in the winners-bracket semifinal. Bakersfield, anchored by Cal-bound guard Tyrone Wallace, edged Central, 53-50.

Notre Dame 81, Ripon 48

Rod Wright found one silver lining to what was an otherwise forgettable outing for his Indians (3-7).

“We should be rested for tomorrow,” he said.

That’s because he played the reserves for the entire fourth quarter when Notre Dame (8-4) of Sherman Oaks went on a 22-6 run.

Jake McCreath and Conner Jones fired 12 and 10 points, respectively in limited action for Ripon, which took the opportunity to hold a light practice after Wednesday’s game ended around 1 in the afternoon.