Varsity basketball loses first game at Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational

Held to just six points in the final five minutes of the game and missing two clutch free throws, Catalina Foothills (AZ) still managed to top Westlake, 52-54, on the backs of 32 combined points by seniors Spencer Lewis and Sam Beskind.

“It’s Sam’s fourth year on varsity, Spencer’s third year, so I expect all that from them,” Catalina Foothills head coach Doug D’Amore said. “It’s nothing that I’m not accustomed to, they’re definitely capable of doing it.”

It wasn’t a pretty game for either team, but especially so for Westlake. They set the tone for what they wanted to do offensively from the start — throw the ball inside to junior Will Baker — but he was unable to get it going in the second half, scoring just five of his 14 points in that frame.

With five days off before playing this game, the Chaps weren’t able to knock down shots that they are accustomed to making, which made closing the gap in the fourth quarter difficult.

“We haven’t played in five days or practiced, so you think about the shots we missed when we got to the rim, we didn’t hit three’s, and we were just a step behind on every loose ball,” head coach Robert Lucero said. “That’s just part of not playing in five days or practicing.”  

Even with little rhythm offensively, Westlake (17-3, 1-0) hung around and were down just four points with a minute still left on the clock. Coming out of a timeout, Westlake threw the ball away twice in the span of about five seconds to give Catalina Foothills (14-1) control.

But after a timeout of their own, the Falcons had an unforced backcourt violation, giving the ball back to Westlake with a chance to claw back.

Senior Keonte Kennedy hit a big three to pull the score within three, and Westlake fouled quickly to send Sam to the line. He’d already missed two free throws earlier in the quarter, and once again missed the first shot of his one-and-one, opening the door for the Chaps to tie it.

But Keonte’s shot wouldn’t fall the second time around, and even though the Falcons would once again miss their one-and-one, they grabbed the rebound and sealed the game.

“There’s not much we can do, but we have to take care of the ball better,” senior Brock Cunningham said. “We were just careless with the ball. We must have had a ton of turnovers, bad plays, bad shots — forced shots, which set us back.”

The Chaps have a quick turnaround with another game later tonight at 7:15 p.m. in Rancho Mirage, California. They play Mount Si (WA) (2-3, 2-2), the No. 36 team in Washington State that has held its own in one of the State’s toughest districts.

No matter the result, Lucero wants to use this tournament mainly to prepare for the grueling District season coming up, including a matchup with rival Lake Travis Jan. 6 at home.

“The reason you come to holiday tournaments is to play games and get back in rhythm,” he said. “Hopefully, the second game will help us get back on track. You forget about [the first] game, and you get a chance to play again, so that’s the main thing — you get to move on to the next one.”