Rodriguez leads Raiders in first round rout
by Daniel Hargis
La Habra Journal
The Sonora High School boy’s basketball team shut the door in the first quarter on the visiting Nogales Nobles and never looked back en route to a 72-43 victory Friday night in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section 2A playoffs at Sonora High..
Coming out of a timeout tied 7-7, the Raiders (25-3) used a 14-5 scoring run to close out the first quarter to take a 21-12 lead.
“We saw some tape on them and I thought they were small and I thought if we played well we could win pretty convincingly,” Sonora head coach Mike Murphy said.
Despite the offensive output Sonora exhibited, defense and rebounding were vital to their success, including slowing down Nogales’ senior center Andrew Bullock.
“We defended better, I thought our defense was pretty good,” Murphy said. “We ran them off the three-point line in the second half.”
Sonora took advantage of transition offense opportunities that came from running hard down the floor, which was fueled in part by Nogales’ three-point and jump-shooting style of play.
Once in the halfcourt set, the Raiders used quick, cross-court ball movement to break down the Nobles’ defense, which resulted in easy layups at the rim or wide-open three-point and long two-point attempts.
“I thought we attacked their man defense really well, got easy baskets, and moved the ball,” Murphy said. “I really like the way we moved the ball tonight.”
Sonora (25-3) is the No. 1 seed in the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs, but they knew they could not take Nogales (14-13) lightly, which proved to be true just minutes into the game.
Behind a loud and energetic student section, things looked like they would be easy from the very start after junior forward Ben Rico converted a three-point play to open the game.
However the Nobles’ junior guard Ethan Anonas responded with a bucket of his own from beyond the arc to knot the game at three.
“We couldn’t underestimate them, they were a good team, they can hit three’s left and right and we knew that coming in,” junior center Steven Murphy said.
But the Raiders’ confidence remained evident throughout the team in the opening minutes as they gave away easy turnovers stemming from tricky cross-court passing.
Both teams traded layups until the timeout with 4:29 remaining in the quarter, and the game knotted at 7-7.
Coming out of the timeout Sonora pressed harder in the passing lanes on defense, resulting in steals and transition buckets that helped build their insurmountable first quarter lead.
Junior guard Josh Rodriguez, who scored a game-high 29 points, opened things up in the second quarter after which the Raiders headed to the locker room with a 36-22 advantage.
“(We wanted to) just focus on our defense and get the little things,” Rodriguez said. “Just get the little things so we’re ready for the next big team.”
Sonora did just that, mostly by dominating the boards and applying more perimeter pressure in the second half, which resulted in a lead that grew larger in each quarter.
That lead grew to 30 points until it was squandered by a free throw with five seconds left, leading to the 72-43 final.
“I thought Steven Murphy was just a monster tonight,” Mike Murphy said. “I thought he was great on their big kid, who averages 21 rebounds per game, and I thought Steven kept him off the boards all night and rebounded like a champ.”
Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s second round game on the road against Righetti High School, who were 58-46 winners over Garden Grove in their first round matchup, the team knows they need to continue to stress defense and rebounding.
“We know this next round is going to be a lot tougher, they have a lot of good, talented big guys and if we can stop them we know we can beat them from the outside,” Steven Murphy said.
“We’ve been talking about it, the only way you win a CIF title is you have to defend and you have to rebound,” Mike Murphy said.
Rico rounded out the scoring leaders with 17 points followed by 10 from Steven Murphy. The Nobles were led by junior guard Justin Roque with 20 points and Anonas with 10.