By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
The Sonora boy’s basketball team’s high pressure defense was too much for La Habra to handle early, giving the Raiders a giant first half lead that the Highlanders couldn’t overcome, despite a much improved second half performance on Friday night at La Habra.
The Raiders employed a full-court press to open the game and the plan worked to perfection, spurring a lopsided 40-11 lead at the half. The Highlanders half court offense found success in the second half, but the massive deficit proved to be insurmountable as the Raiders coasted to a 58-39 victory.
The Highlanders could not find an answer for the Raiders constant pressure and trapping early on. The Raiders intense on-ball pressure held La Habra without a field goal in the first quarter and spurred a 16-1 lead after one..
Guards Kevin Marlow and Bryce Rutledge set the tone defensively, coming up with three steals apiece before the break.
Murphy’s game plan led to 15 Highlander turnovers in the first half.
The Raiders also dominated around the basket on both ends of the court. Center Steven Riley patrolled the paint and cleaned up the glass on the defensive end, while forward Austin Carter gave the Raiders second and third opportunities with his relentless approach on the offensive end.
Carter posted nine points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the first half. Riley went into the break with five points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Murphy called off the press after the Raiders added a couple baskets to start the second half.
“We got up 35, so we stopped pressing, we stopped trapping,” Murphy said. “It was an impressive first half and a very, very average second half.”
Midway through the third quarter the Highlanders were able to get the ball to center Chris Breen, who scored all six of his points during a five-minute stretch.
Guard Ozzie Villanueva added six points in the second half as well. The Highlanders seemed to have found something with Breen down on the block and Villanueva hitting shots from the perimeter, but it took them over three quarters and the damage had already been done.
Breen said the game plan coming into the game was to attack from the perimeter because of the Raiders size advantage, but he thinks that they will focus on getting the ball into the paint more the final two weeks of the season.
Riley finished with a game high 11 points and seven rebounds for Sonora. Carter added nine points and seven rebounds. Both players had impressive games considering they sat out much of the fourth quarter.
Still looking for their first Freeway League victory, the Highlanders (7-14, 0-5) will be on the road to take on Buena Park (18-5, 5-1) on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
With the victory, the Raiders (14-9, 4-2) remain just one game back of first place Buena Park. They will be at home against Sunny Hills (11, 4-2) on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.