By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
In a physical battle between the Raiders and Warriors, Christian Rhodes’ 23 points pushes the Raiders to a 72-69 victory.
Sonora’s Christian Rhodes’ 23 points helped lead the Raiders past Troy Friday.
“I am so beat up. I’m so beat up, I was taking shots all game long, Rhodes said, “but it feels good, that we came out with a victory.”
The Warriors (11-8, 1-1) were led by Jason Choi, who scored 29 points, leading all scorers on the night.
While the Raiders (15-3, 2-0) maintained a narrow lead the entire game, it was their lackluster defense which allowed Choi and the Warriors to hang around.
“I found out tonight we can’t play defense, not even a little bit. Not even a little bit, they’re barely interested in guarding, all we try to do is score. Worst defense I’ve seen in 25 years,” head coach Mike Murphy said.
Choi scored 10 points in the first quarter but was scoreless in the second and had 15 points after three quarters.
But after Sonora stretched their lead to 10 points, heading into the fourth, Troy began to surge.
“We not only couldn’t guard them, they scored in four seconds. We didn’t even resist a little bit. There was no resistance there tonight. We were awful, we were horrible,” Murphy said.
Choi went to work, en route to 12 fourth quarter points from the foul line and inside the paint.
But Christian Rhodes also was in the midst of a fine night.
“Christian Rhodes was fantastic, he was fantastic, he played really well,” Murphy said.
Rhodes however was taking a beating in the process.
“I’m gonna go home and nap,” Rhodes said about his postgame plans.
After Rhodes drew contact on a fastbreak, Troy was called for a technical foul.
Rhodes was three for four from the foul line before the fourth quarter, but knocked down seven of eight in the fourth alone.
Murphy added four points in the paint, but the rest of the Raiders 14 fourth quarter points came on free throws.
During the third quarter, with just a four point lead coming out of halftime, coach Murphy let Kevin Marlow and Jason McClung start the quarter, instead of Ashaad Womack and Josh Rodriguez.
Rodriguez struggled with foul trouble the entire game, and Murphy preferred Marlow’s defensive effort.
“Marlow played really big, those are the only two guys, we just can’t guard,” Murphy said about Marlow and Rhodes, “that’s all we’re gonna talk about for the next couple weeks.”
“We have such a deep team, one player goes down, the next one will step up and that’s what happened today,” Rhodes said.
When Murphy put his starters back, it seemed like a different team.
“If you don’t play with effort you don’t have a chance,” Murphy said.
Womack looked inspired, hedging on screens, providing good help defense and looking for rebounds.
“He played a lot harder in the second half,” Murphy said about Womack.
With the change in intensity, the Raiders were able to get out on the break, creating open shots for their guards.
In addition to his defense, Marlow knocked down two three-pointers for six of his nine points.
“It was amazing, if he doesn’t have those threes, we don’t win this game,” Rhodes said. “he’s got a lot of promise in the future, and we’re really lucky to have him,”
Christian Rhodes added two threes as well, and Steven Murphy continued his activity down low with 19 points in the game.
“Steven Murphy has been playing better every game, he’s getting better and better,” Murphy said.
Matt Mickle scored 14 points but only three came in the second half.
The Raiders and Warriors were separated by 2 points after the first quarter.
Josh Rodriguez scored his only five points in the first quarter.
Ben Rico had nine of his 10 points in the first half.
The Raiders will head to Fullerton on Wednesday January 21 for their next game.