Role players are needed to contend for a championship, and that's what Valencia West Ranch High displayed Tuesday night, relying on its two usual standouts, Ako Kaluna and Kevin Harris, while also turning to unsung contributors in knocking off Newhall Hart, 70-63, in a Foothill League opener at Hart.
Kaluna scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Harris had 18 points, including four three-point baskets. They were the expected standouts for a West Ranch (11-4) team that ended Hart's winning streak at 16 games.
But it was the play of Cody Sanders, Ben Johnson, Kyle Williams and Ryan Beddeo that proved decisive. Hart was daring the Wildcats early on to have other players score besides Kaluna, and that's when players were able to meet the challenge.
Sanders had two three-pointers in the second quarter. Williams finished with nine points. Beddeo made a three-pointer in the fourth quarter. Johnson had five points in the first quarter.
West Ranch led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, as its fiery 25-year-old coach, Shant Bicakci, urged players and West Ranch's vocal fans to not let up.
"I've been telling people from the start our role players are going to have to step up, and we have full confidence in them," Bicakci said.
Hart's standout guards, Myles Franklin and Lewis Stallworth, were largely nonfactors in the game. Franklin had 15 points. Stallworth was limited to eight points until he started driving to the basket in the fourth quarter and finished with 18 points.
West Ranch was more than ready for the showdown. The Wildcats spent much of December facing tough teams, playing Loyola, Crespi, Chaminade, Alemany and Rancho Verde, among others. They showed their experience, opening a 9-0 lead at the outset.
When Kaluna started to take charge in the second half, Hart had little chance for victory. The 6-foot-7 Northern Arizona signee is a man among boys in the middle.
"I think we made a statement," Harris said.