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Ragsdale stays hot in Weston Ranch win
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SALIDA — As far as measuring sticks go, the Chavez boys basketball team gave Weston Ranch very little to work with.

The Titans played much of the first half without their top inside threat and were beaten from the start by the Cougars, who won for the second time in three days at the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic, 80-51.

Weston Ranch led by as many as 32 points and will play Inglewood at 3 p.m.

“We shot the hell out of the ball,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan said. 

Few have been as hot as Jaelen Ragsdale, the junior captain of these run-and-shoot Cougars. He scored a game-high 26 points on Monday, connecting on seven 3-pointers, none of which touched the rim. 

Ragsdale hasn’t scored less than 22 points during tournament play.

Jazz Swanson had 19 points on five 3-pointers and Tre Simmons contributed 10 points.

Standing in the hall outside the locker room, Teevan showered his team with praise, complimenting their energy and shot-making ability in a near-packed gymnasium. The third-year coach wasn’t so impressed with Chavez, which committed 15 turnovers in an erratic performance. 

Teevan had hoped for better.

The Titans played Sierra close at the McDonald’s Classic earlier this month, storming back from a huge deficit in a 58-55 loss. The Timberwolves, who will play for the Lincoln (Stockton) tournament championship tonight, are the Valley Oak League’s reigning champs – a team squarely in the Cougars’ crosshairs. 

Monday’s result taught Teevan nothing. Instead it re-affirmed what he had already known – his team will compete, and score, with just about anyone.

“As far as this game goes, they didn’t compete as hard as us and we played harder,” he said. “When that happens, we’re going to win. But other teams are going to play a lot harder than that.”

Ragsdale scored 14 of Weston Ranch’s first 18 points, including a feathery soft 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to give the Cougars’ an 18-4 cushion.

As he cooled off, Swanson began to heat up. The senior who started his Holiday Hoops Classic with nine 3-pointers in a win over Pleasant Grove knocked in five more. He had four in the second period alone as Weston Ranch’s lead ballooned to 18.

Chavez got a spark from Lewis Hayes, 6-foot-5, 240-pound forward. Hayes sat for most of the first quarter – near the end of the bench with a warm-up shirt on – after a spat with his head coach. 

Back in his coach’s good graces, Hayes was almost unstoppable. He had 22 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots in just three quarters of action, including 10 points in the second quarter as the Titans kept Weston Ranch within sight, 37-23. 

Ragsdale, as he has so often in the early going, provided the dagger.

Two, actually.

He hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter to give Weston Ranch a 54-34 lead. The Cougars would lead by as many as 32 points en route to its sixth win in nine games. 

Ragsdale now has 81 points in three tournament games.

Forwards Charles Udeze and Jordan Strane combined for 16 points, while Fred Lavender had five points, five rebounds and six assists. He limped off the court in the final minute after landing awkwardly on a dunk.

Teevan was most impressed with the second-half play of Lavender, Josh Dilg (three points, five rebounds, three assists) and Simmons, a sophomore who often gets lost in the shadows of the others. 

Simmons has 22 points in his last two games. He played all 32 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Immanuel, a team with state title aspirations, and scored 12 points.  He was 5-of-9 shooting on Monday and created many of his shots off the dribble.

“Tre is the X-factor because he’s a good shooter and a good driver. He can do both, so he can play as the game dictates,” Teevan said. “He’s getting more and more confidence by the day. Plus, Tre’s always competing defensively. He’s going to make some mistakes, but his confidence is growing.”