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Cougars settle for 6th at MC Classic
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One awkward finish on Monday led to another on Tuesday at the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic.

Weston Ranch played without Fred Lavender in a 66-51 loss to Inglewood, settling for sixth place at one of Northern California’s most prestigious high school basketball tournaments.

The Cougars finished their four-day run at 2-2 and found themselves in the thick of the hunt late in each loss, including a nine-point setback to Immanuel, a team with small-school state title aspirations. 

“We got a lot of compliments about how we played,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan said. “Last year, we went 1-3 in this tournament and I remember (former Modesto Christian coach) Gary Porter telling me we had a lot of work to do. He was right, but we put in that work.”

The Cougars might have finished 3-1 with Lavender, a dynamic 6-foot-2 guard that does it all in Teevan’s system.

Teevan said Lavender injured his shoulder as he landed in a heap along the baseline following a fourth-quarter dunk in a rout of Chavez on Monday. 

He won’t play until Weston Ranch’s Valley Oak League opener at Central Catholic on Tuesday, Jan. 6, missing games at St. Mary’s and Center on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Weston Ranch also played without Erron Duncan, who will make his season debut at St. Mary’s.

“To not have Fred or Erron, who are the guys that play the four and act as a second big, that’s a hard matchup for us,” Teevan said.

Even without Lavender, the game hung in the balance with about five minutes to go. With the score knotted at 49-all, Inglewood exploded out of a timeout, knocking down a 3-pointer and ignited a final 17-2 charge.

Jaelen Ragsdale netted 19 points and finished with 100 points in four games. Jazz Swanson buried five 3-pointers, culminating in his 15 points.

Sophomore Tre Simmons had seven points.

So clutch through the first three games, Ragsdale and Swanson struggled without Lavender and his ability to create space and shots for others. His absence was noticeable late, as Inglewood clamped down the Cougars’ top two shooters.

“They got some easier shots and we missed some open ones,” Teevan said. “It’s a make-or-miss game, and they made more than us.”

Weston Ranch is now 6-4.

Despite the sour finish, Teevan believes his team will reap the rewards of another Holiday Hoops Classic experience.

Not only did his team face top-level competition, Teevan said his players — talents like Ragsdale and Swanson — were exposed to college scouts.

“It would be easy to play in other tournaments and come out 11-1 or 10-2, but it’s my duty as coach to put them in environments and tournaments where they can be seen and evaluated by coaches at the college level,” Teevan said. “It’s about these kids. 

“You have to promote these kids. I don’t want to hide in some local tournament and just get three wins.”