By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
The Sonora Raiders battled with the Fullerton Indians before finally breaking through in the second half to secure a victory, winning 73-58.
The two teams were neck and neck after two quarters, with the Raiders leading 32-31.
The referees called an unusually tight game which forced both teams to spend more time shooting free throws than anything else.
“Those guys were calling a foul every possession, I thought it was the tightest of any game we’ve played in a couple of years, every touch was a foul, on both teams,” head coach Mike Murphy said.
Of the Raiders 32 first half points, half of them came from free throws, making 16-21. Fullerton meanwhile took 18 free throw shots and made 14 of them.
The Raiders struggled to shoot the ball, which made the free throws an ally for them to weather through their shooting slump.
“We haven’t been shooting the ball, I mean we can’t make shots, we finally started making shots in the second half and we were able to pull away,” Murphy said.
While the free throws kept the two teams close in terms of the scoreboard, there was a significant difference in bench depth. The Raiders carry 14 players compared to Fullerton’s 10.
The Raiders depth helped them survive foul trouble, while the Indians bench struggled as the game went longer.
Ben Rico had the hottest hand scoring 14 of his 24 points in the second half.
“He played his best defense that he’s played in a while, and he was really going after the ball, Murphy said, “I think that just got him fired up and the defense and the rebounding carried over into his offense and he had a nice game,” Murphy said.
Before the game, Rico was concerned with how his ankle would respond, but the it never appeared to be a factor.
“Once I got in the game, I think the adrenaline kicked in, I was feeling okay and totally forgot about it,” Rico said.
The third quarter was the best for the Raiders who outscored the Indians 26-12 to create an insurmountable gap.
“Some we come out as a team defending a little harder than others, but today I really made it my priority to play defense and guard my guy,” Rico said.
Josh Rodriguez finished the night with 20 points and 12-14 from the free throw line.
The Indians had a balanced scoring effort led by David Sandoval’s 11 points and 10 points from Gerritt Beetstra and Jacob Wirtzer.
Similar to the first game between Fullerton and Sonora, the game became very physical by the end.
Ashaad Womack left the first meeting with a dislocated knee, but played in his second game since returning from the injury.
“I told our guys, they do some things that shouldn’t be done, when you’re going to the basket and they’re pushing guys in the back, I just told our guys to keep their poise and just play through all of that,” Murphy said.
The Raiders will travel to Buena Park for their next game before finishing on Thursday against La Habra at home.