SALIDA – The Weston Ranch boys basketball team won’t bully its opponents with its size or bulk or even its varsity experience.
That much is clear during warm-ups.
Led by baby-faced sophomore Jaelen Ragsdale, the revamped Cougars hope to run circles around their opponents, creating havoc and easy buckets with their speed.
Chris Teevan controls the tempo from the sidelines, urging his guards to push the ball faster and faster up the floor. But as the second-year coach is learning, points aren’t the only product of basketball played at warp speed.
On Monday, there were plenty of mistakes, too. Weston Ranch settled for 14th place at the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic with a 77-62 loss to Turlock, its third in four games at the region’s top tournament.
“We’re talented and skilled enough but if you don’t play hard none of that really matters,” Teevan said. “Even in games we didn’t have a chance to win, like against Modesto Christian and Burbank, I saw our kids play as hard as they physically could.
“We’re starting to do those things. We’re starting to develop.
The preseason has been trial by fire for a roster full of new faces playing a schedule built for last season’s Valley Oak League champion.
The Division I Bulldogs – a perennial contender in the Central California Conference – didn’t cut the baby Cougars much slack on Monday.
Blessed with ample size in the post, Turlock used its inside-outside game to stymie Weston Ranch.
Kenny Fraser, a wiry 6-foot-7 post, had a game-high 27 points, including 13 in the second quarter as Turlock overcame a six-point deficit and began to create separation.
His presence alone opened things up on the perimeter for Devan Bains, a sharp-shooting junior. Bains canned three 3-pointers and had all 22 of his points in the second half as the lead ballooned to double-digits.
“Turlock is very similar to every team we’ll play in league,” Teevan said.
Weston Ranch may be the VOL’s ultimate wild card because of its speed and young talent.
Teevan said his team is still finding its footing – and the Cougars’ 4-7 record lends credence to that sentiment. One thing is clear, though: Weston Ranch has a capable playmaker in Ragsdale.
The sophomore captain tallied 23 points on Monday, a performance spiced with flashes of brilliance.
When his jumper wasn’t working, he slithered through the lane, attacking Turlock’s post to create layups, kick-outs and free throw opportunities.
He’s also comfortable playing at Teevan’s pace. His three-quarter court pass to Alex Delinila (10 points) midway through the second quarter resulted in a three, giving Weston Ranch a short-lived 25-19 lead.
“We’re best in the open court. That’s what separates us from everyone in our league,” Teevan said. “Ragsdale, if kids are out running, he got them the ball. There needs to be a lot of possessions in our game for us to win, because we don’t have anyone to throw inside to.”
Gregori 57, Ripon 52
Chase DePrue’s four-point play with less than two minutes left pulled Ripon within two, but Gregori knocked down its free throws late to avoid a last-place finish at the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic.
DePrue scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half as Ripon erased a five-point deficit at the half. The Indians actually led by two at one point in the third quarter but couldn’t hold on.
The loss was Ripon’s 12th in 13 games. It’s just the fourth time the Indians have gone winless at the Holiday Hoop Classic under Wright, who began taking his teams in 2001.
Derek Hickman had 15 points for the Indians, while Massimo Robbins and Cole Stevens finished with 10 and 8, respectively. Ripon opens Trans Valley League play at home against rival Escalon on Friday.