Tarkanian: West Ranch Makes Statement!

FAB 50 No. 34 West Ranch (Valencia, Calif.) remains unbeaten by defeating host and No. 22 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) to capture the 2022 Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. West Ranch moves to 12-0 and makes statement as a legitimate CIF Southern Section and regional open contender.

It's always difficult to take down a program such as Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on its home court in a big event such as the Tarkanian Classic. After all, the Gaels came into the 2022 edition having captured the event's Platinum Division title three times in the past four entries. West Ranch (Valencia, Calif.) entered the 16-team field after losing in the Platinum Division first round last season to FAB 50 ranked Oak Cliff Faith Family (Dallas, Texas). This edition of the Wildcats, however, had much higher expectations and a much better team.

The FAB 50's current No. 34 ranked team made a statement and stamped itself as a major contender in the CIF Southern Section open division with a 67-62 victory over the host club on Thursday night at Bishop Gorman High School.

"It's no secret, we want to be in the (CIFSS) open division," West Ranch coach Jeff Bryant said. "We have to beat the Mater Dei's and Notre Dame's out there. We have aspirations to win at Damien."

West Ranch (12-0) will go into The Classic at Damien in Southern California (Dec. 27-30) unbeaten behind the play of Boise St.-bound 6-foot-7 2023 (senior) forward Andrew Meadow, who was named tournament MVP after scoring 14 second half-points versus Bishop Gorman in a tight game the host Gaels led 37-30 at halftime. Meadow made some tough inside baskets down the stretch, including an offensive rebound put back after a Darrell Morris (5-10, 2024) field goal attempt with the shot clock running down that gave West Ranch a 59-53 lead. A few moments later and with 2:40 remaining in the game, Morris hit a streaking Isaiah Fields to give West Ranch a 61-53 lead.

Gorman made one last run, coming up with an inbound steal that led to a 3-pointer by 6-foot 2025 guard Nick Jefferson with 55 seconds remaining that cut the Gaels' deficit to 62-60. With 19 seconds remaining, Meadow was fouled away from the ball after Gorman forced a tough field goal attempt by 7-foot 2023 center Jazz Gardner. Meadow canned both free throws to give West Ranch a four-point lead that was brought back down to a bucket after Gorman's John "Juni" Mobley, a 6-foot-2 2024 (junior) committed to Ohio St., drove the length of the court with 11 seconds remaining.

Gorman quickly fouled and West Ranch's Jaqari Miles, a 6-foot-3 2023 guard, made one of two free throws to make the score 65-62. Mobley couldn't get the 3-point attempt he was looking for and had to pass off to Jefferson, whose last-ditch 3-point attempt was long. The carom was called out of bounds on Bishop Gorman, and West Ranch's James Evans, a 6-foot-7 2024 forward, made both free throws to account for the final margin.

Meadows finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Fields, West Ranch's sixth man and an ultra-talented 6-foot-6 2023 wing, finished with 17 points. Morris finished with six points, five rebounds and four assists, Miles finished with 13 points, Gardner added nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks and Evans chipped in one field goal and his clinching free throws.

"We have a bunch of guys that are overlooked, but we want to make a statement," said Meadow, which averaged 17.3 ppg in West Ranch's four victories. "Playing with Jazz has been a blessing this year; he draws so much attention and opens up things for our wings and guards."

Mobley led Gorman with 24 points and averaged 23.0 ppg for the tournament. Keenan Bey, a 6-foot-7 2023 forward, was Gorman's second double-digit scorer versus West Ranch with 13 points. Ryder Elisaldez, a 6-foot-2 2024 guard, was Gorman's second all-tourney selection.

West Ranch advanced to the title game with a 60-55 semifinal victory over Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in a game the Wildcats led wire-to-wire. West Ranch led by as many as 13 points (25-12) in the first half and closed out well on Mater Dei's perimeter shooters, just as the Wildcats' defenders did on Mobley in the title game. Gardner and company also held Mater Dei's Montana-bound big man Zach Davidson to 5-of-15 shooting and 10 points. Davidson exploded for 31 points and had 12 rebounds in Mater Dei's 63-31 third place victory over FAB 50 No. 42 Oak Cliff Faith Family that was sealed by a driving, buzzer-beating lay-up by 6-foot-2 2024 Brady Karich.

Meadow finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds versus Mater Dei, while Miles added 17 points.

Bishop Gorman (6-2) advanced to the title game for the sixth time in 10 years (the 2020 edition was not played because of COVID-19) with a 82-80 overtime victory over Faith Family, a team that took third place in last year's event. Faith Family is a talented squad that felt it was good enough to win four games at this year's event and it looked good leading 40-31 with 15:19 to go in the second half versus Gorman. That's when Gaels went on a tear early in the half to go up 50-44 with 10:53 remaining in the game.

Faith Family adjusted and kept the game close behind the play of New Mexico-bound 6-8 2023 forward Jaydn Toppin. At the end of the game, the Eagles went to Toppin to potentially tie the game. His field goal attempt was off, but 6-foot-5 2023 Peyton Gusters cleaned up the miss to tie the game with 30 seconds to go. Neither team was able to get a clean look and the game went into overtime.

In the extra period, Faith Family took a 78-74 lead, but Mobley quickly responded with a 30-foot 3-pointer to spark the Gaels. Gorman eventually took a 82-78 lead, but Toppin kept the visitors from Texas in range with a lay-up. In the last 1:30 of overtime, Faith Family had three crucial turnovers that cost them dearly when it was all said and done, including off an inbounds play with four seconds remaining in overtime when a high post pass by Toppin thrown inside to 6-foot-11 2024 Doryan Onwuchekwa that was harassed and delivered a bit too low for the big man to handle. Faith Family made 11-of-20 free throws in the two-point overtime loss.

Versus Faith Family, Mobley finished with 25 points, including four 3-pointers, while Elisaldez contributed 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. Toppin finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds and the smooth 6-foot-8 lefty was a cinch selection for the all-tourney team, as New Mexico is getting themselves a matchup nightmare. Gusters also made the all-tournament team while 6-foot-2 2024 guard Isaac Williams also shined for coach Brandon Thomas' 14-2 club.

In the Nike Division (second strongest of the Tarkanian Classic's nine boys divisions), Santa Margarita (Rancho S.M., Calif.) moved to 14-1 on the season by virtue of its 51-40 championship game victory over Crossroads (Santa Monica, Calif.). Northern Arizona-bound Rockwall Reynolds, a 6-foot-8 senior, was named division MVP after netting 20 points. Cameron McNamee, a 6-foot-5 2024 prospect, was also named all-tourney. He scored 13 points in the title game.

Santa Margarita led 17-5 early before Crossroads (8-4) made a valiant comeback with better shot selection. The Roadrunners actually took the lead, 27-25, on a 3-pointer by 6-foot 2025 Coco Britt, but Santa Margarita made the big perimeter shots down the stretch. Pepperdine bound 6-foot-5 wing Nils Cooper and 6-foot-8 2023 forward Isaiah Chappell were named all-tourney for Crossroads.

Santa Margarita now heads to the Platinum Division of the The Classic at Damien Holiday Tournament after Christmas, where it will open with battle-tested American Fork (Utah). Santa Margarita is on the same side of the platinum bracket as No. 13 Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.) and opposite of West Ranch. As for the Wildcats, by capturing the Tark top bracket, they are the early line favorite to meet Harvard-Westlake in The Classic at Damien championship game. The potential semifinal contest pits West Ranch versus No. 36 Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) or Liberty (Henderson, Nev.), which went 2-2 in the Tarkanian Classic top division.

As for Bishop Gorman, it will travel to the Les Schawb Invitational in Hillsboro, Ore., after Christmas, where a likely semifinal matchup awaits with FAB 50 No. 6 Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas). Based on the results from around the country since the last FAB 50 update on December 12, Duncanville is in good position to move up in the rankings with a solid chance to repeat as FAB 50 champions.

In the Tarkanian Classic Spalding Division title game, Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.) upped its record to 14-0 by dispatching a tough Jones (Orlando, Fla.) squad, 90-55, as 2023 5-foot-11 point guard Issac Martinez was named division MVP for the second consecutive season. Martinez finished the title game with 24 points, but it was truly a team effort. Clovis West used its trademark full court press to beat its four opponents by an average margin of 23 points. The Golden Eagles now head to the Modesto Christian Holiday Classic in Modesto, Calif., after the Christmas holiday.

2022 Tarkanian Platinum Division All-Tournament Team

MVP: Andrew Meadow, West Ranch (Calif.) 6-7 F (Boise St.)

Jazz Gardner, West Ranch (Calif.) 7-1 2023 C
Jaqari Miles, West Ranch (Calif.) 6-3 2023 G
John "Juni" Mobley, Bishop Gorman (Nev.) 6-2 2024 G (Ohio St.)
Ryder Elisaldez, Bishop Gorman (Nev.) 6-2 2024 G
Zack Davison, Mater Dei (Calif.) 6-9 2023 F (Montana)
Owen Verna, Mater Dei (Calif.) 6-3 2025 G
Jaydn Toppin, Faith Family (Texas) 6-8 2023 F (New Mexico)
Peyton Gusters, Faith Family (Texas) 6-4 2023 G (Prairie View A & M)
Peyton Marshall, Kell (Ga.) 7-0 2024 C (Auburn)
LoLo Rudolph, St. Augustine (Calif.) 6-2 2024 G
Carl Cherenfant, Calvary Christian (Fla.) 6-5 2023 F (Memphis)
Ace Bucker, St. Ignatius (Ohio) 6-2 2024 G
Sebastian Mack, Coronado (Nev.) 6-3 2023 G (UCLA)
Dedan Thomas, Liberty (Nev.) 6-1 2024 G
Tylen Riley, Durango (Nev.) 6-3 2023 G (Cal Baptist)
Tyler Johnson, Oak Ridge (Fla.) 6-5 2024 F
Tyler Rolison, St. Bernard (Calif.) 6-0 2023 G
Jaydn Harris, Bishop O'Connell (Va.) 6-7 2024 F
Miles Gurske, Rainier Beach (Wash.), 5-10 2023 G
Kaidon Rayfield, Putnam City West (Okla.) 6-8 2025 F

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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