A Newhall Hart student wearing a wig and dressed as Moses showed up just before the start of the third quarter of Friday night's Foothill League basketball showdown against host Valencia West Ranch and parted the red-clad student section, igniting Hart fans and adding even more fire to a fired up Hart team.
West Ranch couldn't reach the intensity level or equal the sense of urgency exhibited by the Indians, who turned a three-point halftime lead into a convincing 84-65 victory, avenging their only defeat in 22 games this season.
Sophomore guard Myles Franklin was on his game from the outset, finishing with 30 points. Lewis Stallworth, who started to do some dancing near the end of the game, had 22 points. Frank Lonsinger contributed three three-pointers.
"The fans were a big difference," Franklin said.
Added Hart Coach Tom Kelly, "We were just relentless. I'm so proud of the kids. We battled. That's all we ask."
Hart (21-1, 5-1), in reversing a 70-63 defeat to West Ranch on Jan. 8, was much more aggressive on defense, trapping the ball and making it difficult every time 6-foot-8 Ako Kaluna had possession of the ball. He had 16 points. Sophomore Ryan Beddeo kept the Wildcats (15-6, 5-1) close for much of the game, contributing 22 points. Kevin Harris added 19 points.
"We knew we couldn't stop Ako, but we didn't want Kevin Harris to get going," Kelly said.
In the first half, Hart's guards were good enough to give the Indians a 41-38 lead. Franklin and Stallworth combined to score their team's first 20 points. Franklin had 18 points at halftime and Stallworth 13. Lonsinger added a pair of three-pointers.
After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Kaluna had 10 points in the second quarter. Harris had 14 points and Beddeo 12. The crowds for both teams were vocal and enthusiastic, trying to provide a little inspiration.
It was so loud that the officials advised the coaches to come out onto the court when trying to signal a time out, and West Ranch Coach Shant Bicakci followed the instructions so much that he ran out close to the free-throw line opposite his bench trying to alert an official. He didn't get the time out but it produced a light-hearted moment, because the 25-year-old was almost a sixth player on the court for West Ranch ready to guard Franklin.
But in the end, nothing was able to top Moses and the intensity level reach by the Indians' fans and players.