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Looking Tight on Top
Foothill League's Boys Basketball for 2022
November, 2021 - Issue #205
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

After an abbreviated 2021 basketball season dominated by a talented West Ranch Wildcats squad, coaches from around the Foothill League in Santa Clarita are confident 2022 won't look anything like 2021 - or include an undefeated favorite.
West Ranch finished 10-0 in league play and made it all the way to the third round in the Southern Section Division II Playoffs last spring before losing to Agoura Hills. Despite their success, Wildcats Head Coach Jeff Bryant is not satisfied with the end result, saying, "We weren't happy with our finish...but we're still a very talented team this year."
"The spring definitely posed some serious challenges for our team last year... only playing here in the valley with no preseason was tough," Hart Head Coach Tom Kelly said about the abbreviated spring schedule.
Canyon Head Coach Ali Monfared said, "We're just excited to have a regular year," adding, "I thought we played our best ball down the stretch last year so we're eager to get going."
Saugus finished second last season with a respectable 7-3 record and has no intention of laying down for any teams this year.
"We expect to be pretty competitive this season. We're going to need to be with our preseason schedule," explains Saugus Head Coach Alfredo Manzano.
But the fact remains that West Ranch hoops has a definitive edge over their contemporaries, not to mention a pretty big target on their backs. Here is what the season seems to have in store.

West Ranch Wildcats
2021 Record (12-1)

The Wildcats are coming off a wild season in which few were able to stop their prolific scoring attack. Coach Bryant believes there's more in the tank.
Featuring future ESPN Top 25 talent Bryce Cofield, who Bryant describes as the best of three talented brothers, plus returning starters James Evans and Jaden Depina makes losing a standout scorer like Andrew Meadows not so tough.
Also featured in the offense is Crespi transfer Jakari Miles, a junior guard that Coach Bryant describes as, "A true playmaker," adding, "he likes to attack the basket and draw contact."
This West Ranch team is definitely going to be hard to handle this year. They're the team to beat in the Foothill League at the onset of the season. Fresh off the experience of three playoff contests back in June leaves this team feeling confident about their chances to go even deeper into the postseason in 2022.

Saugus Centurions
2021 Record (7-3)

Head Coach Alfredo Mazano does not look to give up any of the progress their team made during a COVID-shortened spring season and says, in regard to the chances of a Centurion championship, "We're ready to compete. Our guys are looking to win it this year."
With nine seniors returning to the lineup for 2022, Saugus is deep and talented with a wealth of experience. Led by 6'6" Senior D.J. White, Cristian Manzano and a pair of 6'1 Perez brothers, Nathan and Brandon, the Centurions look to be at - or near the top of - the Foothill League when this pivotal season concludes.
"We played well last year and I expect nothing less from these guys. They're excited to compete," said Manzano.
After a 7-3 season, Saugus is not settling for second place and might just be primed to knock off last year's top team.

Valencia Vikings
2021 Record (5-4)

Of all the teams hit by COVID last season, the Valencia Vikings may have taken it the hardest. After a season plagued by arrested development, Head Coach Bill Bedgood says that his boys are ready for a full season and an opportunity to showcase their talent.
"We were shut down twice last year for false positives, and it really had an impact on our guys," says Bedgood regarding the incongruous season. "We were told we were done for the season, then told, 'You guys play in two days.' We just really didn't respond to that well."
2022 presents an opportunity for Valencia to get back on track with captains Kai Davis and Raif Zakarian leading the team.
"Davis is a gifted talent and a very hard worker, so we look to see big things from him this year," says Bedgood. Not to mention Davis was the leading scorer for the Vikings in the league-only schedule last season.
Bedgood likes junior guard Jaden Aries' ability to score on three levels and loves the scoring potential of his younger talent, saying, "We've got some young guys here that we look to get in the action as well."
The Vikings should be a formidable foe for any and all Foothill League hoops teams this year.
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

Hart Indians
2021 Record (4-6)

"We're pretty evenly matched in my opinion," says Hart Head Coach Tom Kelly about the league competition in this, his 22nd year coaching the Indians squad. "We only got to play against each other last year, and the spring season just wasn't good for us."
Kelly, believes that his young team has a chance to stage some surprise upsets over the course of the 2022 season. Kelly said optimistically, "All I'm going to say is that it may end up tight at the top."
Led by 6'6'' senior forward Jaden Penberthy, a quality player and one who Kelly describes as "Our hardest worker," the Indians are one of the younger groups in the league.
After earning all-league honors last year, Jacob Okinowski brings his offensive skill set to the court for Hart and hopes to capitalize on the opportunity to show that last year was no anomaly.
Hank Coffman, junior guard, started last season as a sophomore and coach Kelly has high expectations for the combo scorer and rebounder in 2022. Kelly calls 5'9" guard Ryand Robio the kind of kid who, "...does all the little things out there. He's not afraid to mix it up."
The Indians have their work cut out for them in what looks to once again be a deep Foothill League boys basketball division.

Canyon Cowboys
2021 Record (3-7)

The Cowboys return seven seniors heading into the 2022 campaign and believe in their ability to make some waves in a highly-competitive Foothill League. Two all-league returners, Matthew Heyne and Brandon Boldroff, head a Canyon club who Head Coach Ali Monfared calls, "hard-working and very tough."
Brody Baumgartner and Paul Sekyi Appiah step into big roles this year with increased defensive responsibilities and larger shares of playing time in 2022.
Monfared calls guard Brandon Ritter, "One of the best pure shooters in the Valley right now."
Canyon certainly believes that they have a club that is poised to compete with the best this year and Head Coach Monfared says about the competition, "We're in a deep league but that doesn't mean we can't still go out there and knock off some big names."

Golden Valley Grizzlies
2021 Record (0-9)

Grizzlies Head Coach Chris Printz's boys had a tough time getting traction last year during league-only play and believe they have improved greatly heading into 2022. "Not being able to check in on my guys on a daily basis was tough," explained a heartfelt Printz adding, "We're going to go back and do a black-and-gold game this year just to honor all of those guys that left and the kids who continue to work hard here."
Led by 6'6" senior forward Mark Hamilton, a flexible, inside, outside wing player, the Grizzlies have nowhere to go but up.
Senior guard Jonathan Onu and Junior Joe Miller look to lead the backcourt for Golden Valley in what coach Printz calls, "A season all about these kids." Printz added, "I get emotional talking about my guys because of everything they've been through. We might just surprise some people this year."

Castaic Coyotes
2021 Record (N/A)

It is always a tall task for a team in varsity play to compete without seniors on the roster. Castaic Head Coach Levi Wenrich does not believe the lack of experience is any excuse not to put up a fight against the best in the league during their inaugural 2022 campaign.
"We have to go out and put up our best effort every night with the teams we play this season. That goes without saying," says Wenrich about his Coyotes' prospects.
"I could say that we're one year away but I think we can do some great things this year."
Sophomore guard Gio Valentine, a dynamic lefty with exceptional ball-handling skills looks to lead a Coyote team in at least a few victorious contests this year. The Coyotes are excited about adding junior guard Sean Deme from West Ranch who coach Wenrich calls, "A three-level scorer."
"He can really fill it up out there. The guy is a legit combo guard," adds Wenrich.
6'5" forward Oliver Shand can be utilized as a wing shooter with his ability to get hot for the Coyotes out on the perimeter. "He can stretch out a defense for us this year," says Wenrich about his junior forward.
The Coyotes round out the seven team Foothill League that should see some barn-burners out on the court, only this year there will be fans in the stands to see them. Check out the schedule and go catch a game.
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