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Cougars ride scoring bursts to blow past River Valley
Weston Ranch standout Dylan Alexander soars past River Valley defender Josh Dhatt for two points. - photo by MICHAEL CHAVES

WESTON RANCH – The first eight minutes — brilliant.

The final five minutes — superb.

There was only a brief five or six-minute span that showed anything other than a team with its sights set on a Sac-Joaquin Section championship. And it couldn’t stop the inevitable, as Weston Ranch cruised to a 70-43 SJS Division-III tournament-opening win against the River Valley Falcons Wednesday.

The Cougars (20-8) asserted themselves early, christening the game with a 13-2 run. They built the cushion to as high as 15, and a 7-0 run to open the third had the lead over 20. Like the sea switching directions, Weston Ranch lost focus and River Valley’s Josh Dhatt hit back-to-back three’s early in the fourth and it was a 10-point ball game.

“We’re not a 32-minute team yet,” Weston Ranch head coach Chris Teevan said. “We’re getting better, though. I told them before the game I think we are at about 90 percent right now and we need to get to 93 tonight and 95 by Friday, and if you want to win it all you better get to 100.

“It was simple stuff, not talking on switches and rebounding killed us, but I like where we’re at.”

Dylan Alexander led the way for Weston Ranch with a game-high 22 points, balancing his act with 11 points in each half. Eric Duncan played a masterful role of facilitator, assuring that the offense went through post player Daiveon Leverett (13 points, nine rebounds) on nearly every possession. Duncan finished with 12, while Felix Buenrostro hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Weston Ranch its biggest lead of the first half.

River Valley got a huge effort from senior Stuart Bradley who led the Falcons with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Weston Ranch will face No. 12 seed Rio Americano Friday at home after its upset win over No. 5 seed Lincoln 66-60. As solid as Weston Ranch’s performance was in the opener, continuing to get better will be the ultimate test for the Cougars.

“We started to take it personal on defense and it opened up some baskets for us,” Alexander said of the club’s 14-0 run to close it. “When we are able to get the baskets in transition, it’s hard to stop us when we’re getting lay ups. As the year has progressed our guards have minimized turnovers and they create for us.

“Their energy just feeds down to us and it makes things easier for us.”